The young American, Sofia Kenin had not been past the fourth round in a Grand Slam before 2020, but made a statement the like of which we rarely see when she won the Australian Open.
Kenin, ranked 14th in the WTA rankings at the time, and now seventh, beat World No.1 Ashleigh Barty and pre-tournament favorite in her backyard, before coming from a set down to beat Spain’s two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza 6-4, 2-6, 2-6.
American success on the women’s side of the sport in particular, has been nothing short of outstanding, with a continuous array of champions filtering through.
From Billie Jean King, to Chris Evert, Czech born American star Martina Navratilova, Lindsey Davenport, the Williams sisters and more recent stars Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, and teenager Coco Gauff.
Even with the success the country has had, it could be argued that the next generation of stars, a group led by Kenin could produce even better results.
Like both her parents, Kenin is originally from Moscow, Russia. Having moved to New York City in 1987, the family returned to their native country for the birth of Kenin.
Within months they moved back to the US, where she began playing tennis and was a highly touted prodigy, attracting the interest of veteran coach Rick Macci at the age of five.
Her progression then as a junior was extremely successful, as she won the Orange Bowl event at the age of 16, and a US Open final loss in the singles tournament.
Kenin, also went on to win the UTSA Girls under 18 National Championship during the 2015 summer, along with a high of N. 2 in the world rankings being one of the many highlights of her glittering junior career.
Coached by her dad, Kenin played on the professional scene before making her WTA World Tour debut in 2017. It took the American little time to make an impact as she became a top 50 player within a year and two top-ten victories over Carolina Garcia, before beating Julia Gorges at the Wuhan Open.
In 2019, things got even better as she was awarded the ‘Most Improved Player Of The Year’ award, winner of three WTA titles, and a highest ranking of 12 in the world.
While there were various high profile accolades and victories throughout the year, possibly the biggest highlight was her win at the French Open against Serena Williams.
Williams has been the dominant force in the women’s game for many years, however, it’s fair to say that while a potential champion in any tournament she enters as the last two Wimbledon and US Open’s showed with four final appearances, the anticipation for who the next great American star could be is evident.
There have also been a few cases of highly anticipated American’s who haven’t quite delivered to the lofty expectations set on them as younger players, such as Christina McHale and CoCo Vanderweghe.
Before Kenin broke through at this year’s Aussie Open, it had been just over two years since an American winner, with Stephens beating fellow American Keys in the US Open final.
To any other nation, a two-year spell without a winner on the biggest stage would not be heavily scrutinized, but the unprecedented success of the US would surely have done just that.
Kenin came up trumps for the American public, and is here to stay. While many have suggested Kenin doesn’t have one of the more powerful games on the tour, she was never devoid of the necessary tools to be a star.
With so many young players in the limelight, and Grand Slam titles to their names both American and various nationalities around the world, Kenin is not a player seemingly phased by the presence of a country’s steep history.
When analyzing Kenin’s style of play, one name appears at the fore front of who her game is molded after, and that is Novak Djokovic.
A toughness, relentlessness, driven nature of play, not to mention an unbreakable backhand were all on show for everyone at the opening slam of the season.
While women’s tennis is continuously producing new Grand Slam champions and arguably the most competitive it has ever been, Kenin is a name that will grow more familiar as the future of American tennis and potential successor to Serena is in front of our very eyes.