COMMENT: Sofia Kenin Goes From Nowhere To Superstar Status - UBITENNIS
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COMMENT: Sofia Kenin Goes From Nowhere To Superstar Status

James Beck reflects on the rise of the new Australian Open champion.

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From nowhere to superstar.

 

That’s 21-year-old Sofia Kenin today. The Australian Open women’s singles champion.

As recently as 2017, Kenin was working her way through qualifying at Charleston’s Volvo Car Open where she is scheduled to return in two months. Direct main draw entry this time, of course.

She will be the highest-ranked American in professional tennis on Monday morning at No. 7 when the next WTA Tour rankings are posted.

“Great for American tennis,” VCO tournament director Bob Moran said Saturday morning about Kenin’s success Down Under. And for the oldest and largest women’s-only tennis tournament in the United States, the Volvo Car Open? “Absolutely.”

Kenin is the youngest American to win a Grand Slam since Serena Williams in the 2002 U.S. Open.

Kenin was all fight, spirit and feistiness. She needed it all to turn back two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, in the Australian Open final on Saturday night in Melbourne.

She started her acceptance speech by telling the audience,  “Okay, this is my first speech, but I’m going to try my best.” She was as much a winner with the microphone as she was with her tennis racket.

Her speech was so well articulated that tennis hall of famer Todd Woodbridge, who was serving as master of ceremonies for the Australian Open’s awards presentation, said, “I think we’ll all agree it was a pretty special first Grand Slam speech.”

Such headiness was apparent even in 2017 in Charleston when I noted in my story the excellent articulation of the then 18-year-old online-schooled Moscow-born Kenin. “I knew what I had to do. I had to play steady to win,” she told me in 2017 after winning her qualifying final.

Even then, her father Alexander, who still serves as her coach, was part of the audience on the Althea Gibson Club Court at the then Family Circle Tennis Center, watching a future superstar just like everyone else.

Kenin got her first big break in July, 2016 when she won a $50,000 event in Sacramento, Calif., that lifted her world ranking nearly 100 spots into the top 200.

She hasn’t changed her approach since, except to perfect it.

A month later in 2017, Kenin was back in Charleston, advancing through qualifying for a $60K International Tennis Federation tournament at LTP Tennis. She also participated in the 2018 and 2019 Volvo Car Open.

Kenin demonstrated early against Muguruza that this would be no picnic as she came up with a service break to deadlock the first set at 4-all. Kenin didn’t let the disappointment of losing the first set bother her too much as she took the court to start the second set with fire in her eyes and game.

She out-hit the veteran Muguruza from the baseline and forced the Spanish star to hit extra ball after extra ball.

The final set would be the real test, everyone must have thought. But once Kenin stood at 2-2, Muguruza couldn’t stop the American. Muguruza double-faulted on the last point of the sixth game and then the last point of the match.

Kenin celebrated with her dad Alexander when the final was finally over. She still maintained her concentration and focus. She was the champion. That was enough.

She thanked the crowd “for putting up with me,” but she admitted that the accomplishment was “my dream come true.”

James Beck is the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his Post and Courier columns at 

http://www.postandcourier.com/search/?l=25&sd=desc&s=start_time&f=html&t=article%2Cvideo%2Cyoutube%2Ccollection&app=editorial&q=james+beck&nsa=eedition

 

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Neil Stubley: “It is impossible to host Wimbledon in late summer because the courts would become slippery”

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Wimbledon groundsman Neil Stubley explained to the British newspaper that the change of date was not possible at the All England Club. It is impossible to stage Wimbledon in late summer. Wimbledon became the highest-profile tennis tournament to be called off due to the coronavirus. The All England Club confirmed that the 134th edition of the Championships will be held from 28th June to 11th July 2021.

 

According to Stubley it is impossible to host Wimbledon in late summer because the courts would become slippery much earlier than in July. It would shorten the window for matches making it extremely difficult to organize many matches between 11.30am to 17pm.

“In late summer the sun gets lower in the sky. The dew point on the grass arrives earlier and the courts get slippery. The window for play becomes shorter at both ends. As much as it would be lovely to play in late summer and autumn. It’s not possible. We have indeed staged Davis Cup matches in September, but the the play would start at 11.30 or noon and finish by 5pm. Whereas, at the Championships, you are going from 11am until 9 pm every day. To get through 670 matches over 13 matches is a challenge in the height of summer, let alone at other times of the year”, said Stubley.

Stubley said that he will miss the adrenaline rush he gets on the first day of Wimbledon.

 “One of the beauties about my job is that to showcase my work to the world every day. When the eyes of the world are looking to how Centre Court is for that first day of the Championships, it’s always a nervous feeling. It will be a funny feeling, through June and July, not to have that adrenaline rush again”, said Stubley.

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‘He Did Everything I did, Only Better’ – Pat Rafter Names The Toughest Rival Of His Career

The two-time grand slam champion opens up about his toughest rivalry as he predicts a bleak outlook for the 2020 tennis season.

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Former world No.1 Pat Rafter has named an American tennis legend as the player who he struggled the most against throughout his professional career.

 

The 47-year-old was a star of Australian tennis during his playing days after achieving a series of milestones. His accolades include becoming the first player from his country in 28 years to reach the top of the ATP rankings in 1999 and becoming the first man to win the Rogers Cup, Cincinnati Masters and US Open within the same year. Rafter is also the last player outside of the Big Three to have won back-to-back US Open titles after triumphing in 1997 and 1998.

Despite his successes, there was one player that caused him difficulty. Rafter played Pete Sampras 16 times on the ATP Tour, but could only win four of those encounters. At one stage he lost to the 14-time grand slam champion eight times in a row.

“The toughest player I played against was definitely Pete Sampras – he did everything I did, only better.” Rafter told Eurosport.
“His record was the best so there’s no doubt about it Sampras the stand-out. I enjoyed playing Andre Agassi the most – I thought we had a really good battle, I really enjoyed playing him.”

The rivalry between the two was tense at times. Highlighted best by their encounter in the 1998 US Open semifinals. Sampras complained of a quadriceps injury following his loss to the Australian. Prompting Rafter to famously say ‘he’s becoming a bit of a crybaby.’ A few months before that comment, he admitted that his relationship with the American wasn’t solid by saying ‘We’re not the best of mates. I wouldn’t go out for a beer with him, put it that way.’

22 years on from the verbal exchange between the two, Rafter now describes it as a thing of the past. Insisting that his rival never took what he said to him ‘personally.’

“I can’t remember the exact words, but we had a run-in in Cincinnati one year – I probably told him to grow up.” He recounted.
“He cracked it when I beat him one time. But that was back in the old days, emotions were running high and don’t take it personally. It’s all good.”

No tennis in 2020

Besides reminiscing about his playing career with Eurosport, Rafter has also predicted a bleak outlook for this year’s tour. All professional tournaments have been suspended until July 13th due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For the first time since 1945 Wimbledon has been cancelled due to the situation.

Many are now speculating as to when it will be possible for the tour to resume. The US Open is still optimistic that they can hold their tournament as scheduled later this summer. Meanwhile, the French Open is set to be played during the later part of September. However, Rafter doubts that either of those tournaments will happen.

“No, I think this (the virus) is going to be around for a long time.” Rafter commented on the chances of the 2020 season resuming. “Until they get a vaccine I can’t see how anyone is going to be playing.’
“Personally, I think it’ll be like the flu and we’ll have to get used to it.”

Potentially one solution for the tournaments would be to host matches without spectators. In order to minimise the risk of the virus spreading. An approach that has already been taken by other sports such as football. However, Wimbledon refused to consider that option this year.

“I think they could. No spectators. Sure. No ball-boys – I’d love to see the players pick up the balls themselves!” he concluded.

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Judy Murray: “Wimbledon faces big challenges in terms of postponising it”

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The ATP and the WTA have extended the tour suspension due to the coronavirus outbreak until 13th July as Wimbledon was called off for the first time since the Second World War in 1945.

 

Judy Murray, former British Fed Cup captain and mother of Andy and Jamie Murray, explained why it was hard for Wimbledon organizers to postpone the tournament at the All England Club and find a new date in the calendar.

“I think the calendar is already starting to become congested towards the end of the year because everybody who has had tournaments cancelled is fighting for spaces to try to complete the season as best as they can. I think one of the big challenges for Wimbledon is that it’s played on grass, which is not an artificial surface and also the further that you go on in the year or down in the calendar you have less light and of course Wimbledon has just two covered courts. I think there are big challenges in terms of postponing it”, said Judy Murray on BBC Breakfast. 

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