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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Kazakhstan Knocks Out Canada To advance At Davis Cup Finals

The 2019 runners-up finish bottom of Group B after failing to win all six matches they played across two ties.

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MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 28: Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals 2021 at Madrid Arena on November 28, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Mateo Villalba / Quality Sport Images / Kosmos Tennis)

Kazakhstan is through to the quarterfinals at the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid after beating Canada who was looking to stay alive.

 

Kazakhstan has officially won group B and booked a spot in the final eight of the tournament after Mikhail Kukushkin and Alexander Bublik posted wins over Brayden Schnur and Vasek Pospisil.

Canada needed to go a perfect 3-0 to give them a small chance of obtaining a second place spot but losing both singles means their run is over and they have failed to advance after reaching the final back in 2019. Unlike tow years ago, the team were missing their top players Denis Shapovalov and Felix-Auger Aliassime who withdrew from the event less than a month before it started.

“Going in, we went from being the favorites in this group to having a tough task ahead of us,” said captain Frank Dancevic.
“I thought they (team Canada) gave their hearts out there this week, and they did everything they could to try to get us through.’
“We knew we had to win 3-0 today to have a chance through the qualifying, and it was a really, really tough task. But in the end we’ll keep our heads up and regroup, assess a few things from this week and move forward from here.”

Kukushkin survives Schnur

First up was Kukushkin facing the young Canadian Schnur who was playing his first singles match of the event. The Kazak needed two hours and 54 minutes to post a 6-3, 6-7, 7-5 win.

The Nur-Sultan resident hit 35 winners in the match while the Toronto native hit a massive 63 unforced errors in a match that he almost came back to win.

The first three games of the match went with serve and at 2-1, the world number 183 set up the first break point of the match with a powerful return winner and broke the Canadian with a stunning passing shot.

That break of serve sufficed for the Kazak to serve out the first set and take a 1-0 set lead.

Schnur faced immense pressure once again early in the second set but dug deep and saved three break points at 1-1 to avoid being broken early. The set stayed on serve until 5-5 when once again the world number 183 broke and had a chance to serve out the match.

The Canadian saved three match points by playing some outstanding defensive tennis trying to keep his country alive and forced a tiebreaker. The world number 234 ended winning that breaker and taking the set to force a third deciding set.

Schnur kept it going into the third and managed to break in the first game of the set but was broken right back the following game. It stayed on serve until 6-5 when the Kazak found himself with his fourth match point of the match and was able to finally seal the win.

Bublik races past Pospisil

In the second singles rubber, it was Canadian veteran Vasek Pospisil taking on the Alexander Bublik. Bublik managed to get the win in straight sets 6-2, 7-6 in 59 minutes, serving 14 aces and hitting 8 winners in the match.

The first set stayed on serve until 3-2 when it was the world 36 who earned the first break point of the match and broke to take a 4-2 lead.

With the momentum in his favour, Bublik turned that break into a double break and was able to serve out the first set in a mere 26 minutes. The second set stayed on serve until 6-6 and needed to be decided by a tiebreak.

In the breaker, it was tight until Pospisil had two set points at 6-4 but the Kazak saved both and went on to win the breaker 8-6 and the match.

Kazakhstan shuts out Canada

In the third and last match of the tie, the Kazak pairing of Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov beat the Canadian duo of Peter Polansky and Brayden Schnur 6-4, 6-7, 6-1 in two hours and six minutes.

The win in the doubles means Kazakhstan has swept Canada and will now await their quarterfinal opponent who they won’t play until Wednesday. In regards to Canada, they head home after suffering two losses.

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Jannik Sinner secures Davis Cup quarter final for Italy in Turin

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Jannik Sinner edged past Elahi Galan Riveros 7-5 6-0 to secure a qualifying spot in the quarter finals for Italy in Group E of the Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals at the Pala Alpitour in Turin.

 

Sinner went up a break twice in the first set but Galan pulled back on serve both times to draw level to 4-4. Sinner won 11 points to 1 from 4-5 15-15 and broke serve in the 11th game to seal the first set 7-5. 

Sinner broke Galan three times to take a bagel win in the second set. 

“It’s unbelievable feeling playing here. It is a great feeling to be qualified. I think Lorenzo Sonego and I played great matches against tough opponents. It means a lot to us. I think we are a great group of incredible players It is a pleasure playing here in this arena”, said Sinner.  

Lorenzo Sonego came back from one set down to beat world number 275 Nicolas Mejia 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-2 in the opening match. 

Mejia converted his fourth break point and held on his serve to open up a 2-0 lead. Sonego broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Sonego saved a break point with his serve in the 11th game. Mejia went up a 5-3 lead with a mini-break on the eighth point in the tie-break. Sonego pulled back on serve to draw level to 5-5, but Mejia earned a set point with his second mini-break and sealed the tie-break with a backhand down the line. 

Sonego started the second set with an early break in the first game and held his next five service games to close out the second set 6-4. The local player did not face any break point and broke twice in the first and fifth games to seal the third set 6-2. 

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Australia fights back from first match defeat to beat Hungary 2-1

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Australia beat Hungary 2-1 in Group D of the Davis Cup by Rakuten Finalat the Pala Alpitour in Turin. 

 

Zsombor Piros came back from one set down to upset John Millman 4-6 6-4 6-3 with five breaks of serve after 3 hours and 7 minutes. 

Piros opened up a 3-0 lead with a double break. Millman pulled a break back to draw level to 3-3. Piros did not convert two break points in the ninth game before Millman earned a break to win the first set 6-4. 

Millman held serve to love at the start of the second set. Both players traded breaks in the third and fourth games. Piros earned a break in the ninth game and held serve to level the match at a set apiece. 

Piros called for a medical time-out for treatment for his right forearm at 3-2 in the third set. 

Alex De Minaur helped Australia fight back from the defeat in the first match with a 7-5 2-6 7-6 (7-2) win over Marton Fucsovics. 

De Minaur earned an immediate break in the opening game. Fucsovics broke back after a marathon sixth game. Both teams traded breaks in the seventh and eighth games. De Minaur claimed the 67-minute first set with a break in the 11th game. 

Fucsovics broke twice in the second and eighth games to win the second set 6-2. Both players traded breaks at the start of the third set. Both players went on seve until 5-5. De Minaur broke serve with a chip and charge that drew a backhand error from Fucsovics. 

The Hungarian player saved a match point before converting his fifth break point of the game with a forehand winner. De Minaur earned a 5-1 lead. The Australian player hit a forehand winner to win the tie-break 7-2 levelling the tie. 

“This is what Davis Cup matches are all about. You leave it all out for your country. You have got to be proud of your effort. I was going to leave it allout there whether I won or not. It was a brutal battle, a great match, a great level by Marlon”, said De Minaur. 

John Peers and Alex Bolt did not face a break point to beat Fabian Marozsan and Zsombor Piros 6-3 6-7 (11-13) 6-3 after 2 hours and 5 minutes. 

“It was a tough hard-fought match, but the boys dug deep, we really stuck together and I think that’s what made the difference today”, said Peers. Australia lost the opening match in Group D against Croati, but they can still qualify for the quarter finals as one of the two best second-placed teams. 

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