U.S. tennis star Sofia Kenin wins her first Grand Slam title at Australian Open

/ AP

This, essentially, was where Sofia Kenin was going to win or lose the Australian Open final: She was down love-40 while serving at 2-all in the third set against two-time major champion Garbiñe Muguruza.

Kenin came through in spectacular fashion. She won the next five points, each with a winner – one an ace, the others clean groundstrokes to cap exchanges of 11 shots or more.

The American wouldn't lose another game on her way to earning a Grand Slam title at age 21.

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The 14th-seeded Kenin won the first major final of her career Saturday by coming back to beat a fading Muguruza 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 at Melbourne Park. She is the youngest Australian Open champion since 2008, when Maria Sharapova won the hard-court tournament at age 20.

"This is my first speech, but I'm going to try my best," Kenin said during the trophy ceremony at Rod Laver Arena, where the retractable roof was shut because of rain much of the day.

"My dream has officially come true," she told the crowd. "Dreams come true. So if you have a dream, go for it, and it's going to come true."

2020 Australian Open - Day 13
Sofia Kenin celebrates during her Women's Singles final match against Garbine Muguruza on February 1, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Getty Images

Kenin was so magnificent when it mattered the most, saving 10 of 12 break points she faced, while converting 5 of 6 that she earned.

Muguruza, meanwhile, seemed hampered in her movement and, in particular, her serving: She helped Kenin by double-faulting eight times, including three in the last game, one on championship point.

Kenin immediately covered her face with both hands.

For quite some time, she was overlooked and underappreciated, drawing much less attention than other young tennis players from the U.S., such as 15-year-old Coco Gauff. Maybe it was because Kenin is only 5-foot-7. Maybe it was because she went into last season with this resume: ranked outside the top 50, yet to get past the third round of a major, yet to win a tour-level title.

Kenin will be taken more seriously now. By everyone.

Kenin is expected to rise to No. 7 in Monday's WTA rankings, the youngest American to make her debut in the top 10 since Serena Williams in 1999.

Kenin was born in 1998 in Moscow to Russian parents; they had moved to New York in the 1980s, but returned to be with family for the birth of their daughter. A few months later, they returned to the U.S.; Kenin grew up in Florida and still makes her home there.

"This was the best two weeks of my life. I thank my team, my dad, everyone who made this possible – my mom back home, who's probably watching this speech. I love you, Mom," Kenin said. "We worked so hard, and I'm so grateful for this."

Sofia Kenin kisses the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup after winning against Spain's Garbine Muguruza in their women's singles final match on February 1, 2020. Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images

First published on February 1, 2020 / 8:42 AM

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