Kenin thriving in the spotlight: ‘I’m getting the attention now’

andrew hendrie:

Sofia Kenin is one win away from making her dreams a reality as she prepares to face Garbine Muguruza in the Australian Open final on Saturday night.

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She hasn’t had the hype of fellow American young guns Amanda Anisimova and Coco Gauff over the last 12 months, but Sofia Kenin has firmly propelled herself into the spotlight over the last fortnight in Melbourne – and now, she’s one win away from landing herself a Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

By her own admission, the 21-year-old says it’s nice to finally be recognised for her talent after beating World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in straight sets to reach the final on Thursday.

Sofia Kenin (Photo by Jason Heidrich/Icon Sportswire) (Credit Image: © Jason Heidrich/Icon SMI via ZUMA Press)

“People haven’t really paid much attention to me in the past, but I had to establish myself and I have,” she said after making her first major final.

“Of course now I’m getting the attention, which I like, I’m not going to lie. My phone’s been blowing up. I haven’t been able to check normal messages. I love this attention and I’m enjoying every single moment of it.”

After patiently building up her ranking from No. 113 to No. 14 over the last two seasons (she’ll be inside the top 10 on Monday), winning three WTA titles in 2019 and beating Serena Williams to make the fourth round of a major for the first time at Roland Garros, Kenin has taken the next step in her still-young career at the Australian Open.

Born in Moscow, Russia before moving to Florida in the United States at a young age, Kenin has been dreaming of this moment since first picking up a racquet.

Her success as a junior (she was No. 1 in the 12, 14, 16 and 18-and-under divisions) helped Kenin gain widespread attention across the USA, with photos and videos of her as a young prodigy resurfacing online over the last couple of days.

These include Kenin informing a reporter of how she would return Andy Roddick’s serve, along with a photo of her with former Russian star Anna Kournikova and footage with former World No. 1 Kim Clijsters.

Kenin acknowledged the videos on her Twitter after beating Barty on Thursday.

Kenin is one win away from becoming the first American to win a Grand Slam title since Sloane Stephens at the 2017 U.S. Open.

The last American not named Serena Williams to win the Australian Open title was Jennifer Capriati in 2002.

“I always believed I can (do this),” Kenin said. “Of course I didn’t have a book. I didn’t know exactly when. I feel like at this young age, I think it’s incredible.

“Not everyone gets to live this moment, live this dream. I’m just really grateful for it. I’ve worked so hard. I’ve put all the efforts into my practices, into my fitness.

“All the efforts I’ve been doing, it’s got me here. It’s just paying off and it’s like a dream come true for me.

“I’m so speechless. I honestly can’t believe this. I’ve just dreamt about this since … that Andy Roddick video.”