Sofia Kenin won her maiden Grand Slam title after defeating Garbine Muguruza in the Australian Open women’s singles final on Saturday.
Following in the footsteps of Naomi Osaka, Ashleigh Barty and Bianca Andreescu, American Kenin produced a brilliant performance in her first major final, coming from a set down to win 4-6 6-2 6-2.
Kenin, who was a child prodigy marked out for stardom at an early age, while she made her US Open debut at 16, will climb to seventh in the WTA rankings after building a reputation for intelligence and feistiness.
“This is my first speech but I’m going to try my best,” said Kenin after receiving the trophy from Lindsay Davenport 20 years after her title.
“First off I want to congratulate Garbine on a great match and a great tournament. I’m sure we’re going to have many more finals.
“My dream officially came true, I cannot even describe this feeling. It’s so emotional. I’ve worked so hard. If you have a dream, go for it, it’s going to come true.
“Last but not least I want to thank my team, my dad. I can’t believe we’re here today. I’m so grateful for this.”
Both players found themselves locked into a relentless baseline battle in the early stages of a surprise final under a closed roof on Rod Laver Arena following a cool, rainy afternoon in Melbourne.
The 21-year-old American, playing in her first major final, managed to fend off three break points before finally being overrun by the Spaniard in the third game.
Kenin won a marathon seventh game after saving four break point chances before Muguruza, a former world No 1, capitulated on serve in the next game to hand the 14th seed a route back into an fascinating contest.
But Kenin was left frustrated again when Muguruza, 26, broke back before successfully serving out the set in 52 minutes.
Kenin, who beat Muguruza in their only previous meeting in Beijing last year, was acquitting herself well as she claimed her third love service game to move 2-1 up in the second set before the Russian-born 21-year-old converted for a vital break when the Spaniard sprayed her backhand wide of the mark.
From there, Kenin strode with purpose towards the second set, eventually taking it 6-2 with another break.
The Spaniard, who scaled Mount Kilimanjaro during the off-season, received medical attention for a back problem before the start of the deciding set, although it did not seem to restrict her movement.
Kenin had never previously been beyond the fourth round at a Slam but showed her big-match mentality by ending the run of 15-year-old Coco Gauff and then defeating world No 1 Ashleigh Barty in the semi-finals.
And she continued to show that change in mentality by producing a series of stunning winners to hold serve from 0-40 at 2-2 in the deciding set.
Kenin’s father and coach, Alex, who moved the family to America from Russia when his daughter was a baby to give her a better life, could barely watch.
Muguruza dropped serve in the next game and then double-faulted on the American’s second match point to hand her victory after two hours and three minutes.
“I think I’m going to keep it short because I’m going to get very emotional,” said Muguruza, who had been hoping to win her third Grand Slam title having emerged from the wilderness under the guidance again of Conchita Martinez, with whom she lifted the Wimbledon title in 2017.
“Congratulations Sofia, I think you played an incredible match, incredible tournament. I think we’re going to see you play more finals for sure.”