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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Ugo Humbert saves three match points to beat Hubert Hurkacz in Dubai

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Fifth-seed Ugo Humbert came back from one set down to beat Hubert Hurkacz 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-3. Humbert had beaten Hurkacz en route to his title in Marseille. 

Hurkacz converted his third break point in the fourth game to win the first set 6-3. Humbert saved three match points in the tie-break of the second set before converting his first set point to force the match to the decider. Humbert broke twice to seal the third set 6-3. 

“It was a great battle. I tried to battle for every point. In the tie-break I saved three match points, tried to do my best and thanks to those French fans for the amazing support”, said Humbert. 

Humbert set up a semifinal match against Danil Medvedev, who beats Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2 6-3. Humbert leads 2-1 in their head-to-head matches, but Medvedev won their most recent match in three sets at the China Open in their most recent head-to-head match in Beijing last year.

“It’s going to be a great challenge against Danil tomorrow. We had a few great fights. Hopefully I will recover well to be ready for this match”, said Humbert. 

Aleksander Bublik was leading Jiri Lehecka 6-4 4-1 when the Czech player was forced to retire due to an injury. Bublik set up a match against Andrey Rublev, who was leading Sebastian Korda 6-4 4-3  when the Czech player withdrew due to injury. 

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

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Image via https://twitter.com/RioOpenOficial/

One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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Emma Raducanu Among Trio of Grand Slam Winners Handed Miami Open Wild Cards

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Emma Raducanu - Cincinnati 2022 (foto Twitter @cincytennis)

Emma Raducanu has avoided the possibility of having to go through qualifying at the Miami Open after being awarded a wild card for the event on Thursday. 

The 2021 US Open champion is among four players to have received passes into the main draw of the prestigious event, which is classed as a WTA 1000 for the women and as a Masters 1000 for the men. It will be the third straight year that Raducanu has played in Miami but she is yet to win a match there. In 2022 she lost her opening match to Katerina Siniakova before getting beaten by Bianca Andreescu 12 months later. 

Raducanu has won two out of five Tour-level matches played so far this year. Recently her agent, Max Eisenbud, hit back at those who have criticised the tennis star’s results since winning the US Open. Raducanu also missed a chunk of last season due to injury after undergoing wrist and ankle surgery. 

“The girl did everything backward. She skipped every step. She won the US Open, she went to the next tournament, she didn’t even know where the player lounge was, she didn’t know where the practice courts were,” Eisenbud told the Served With Andy Roddick podcast.
“I don’t think just being tough on her or critical on her like any other player [is wrong]. But she is still figuring it out. I just think that people should not be malicious.”

Other players to have received wild cards into Miami include Venus Williams, who is a three-time champion at the event but hasn’t won the title since 2001. The 43-year-old hasn’t played on the Tour since August and is currently ranked outside the world’s top 400. 

Carolina Wozniacki completes the line-up of former Grand Slam winners being given wild cards. The Dane was a Miami finalist back in 2017 and has made 12 appearances at the tournament. Earlier this week, she suffered a 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, loss to Anna Blinkova in the first round of the San Diego Open. 

As for the men’s tournament, the only confirmed wild card recipient is Kei Nishikori who will be making his first competitive start since July 2023. Recently the injury-stricken Japanese player added Thomas Johansson to his team. 

The Miami Open will get underway on March 17th.

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