Sofia Kenin Had A Trailblazing Year In 2020, And The Best Is Yet To Come

The 22-year-old tennis pro had a year full of accomplishments, including winning her maiden grand slam title in Melbourne.

Embed from Getty Images

One-year-ago Sofia Kenin was experiencing an amazing tennis season for her age. In 2019 she won three lower-level tournament titles, and received one of the biggest upsets in tennis history after surpassing Serena Williams at the French Open. Beyond that Kenin was placed in over 40 world tennis rankings and took home the WTA’s most improved players award.

This year, Kenin had to truly cement herself as a tennis professional, especially considering she is one of eight players that are aged 22 or younger and finishing 2020 in the top 25 this year. With individuals like Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu also becoming trailblazers for young athletes everywhere, Kenin has had to prove that she’s just as talented as the rest of them, and she’s succeeded. 

Throughout 2020 US tennis headlines were saturated with news of Serena Williams returning to the sport after giving birth, as well as Coco Gauff’s substantial rise in success and popularity. However, when it came down to who dominated tennis this year, the younger generation really made a name for themselves as the future of the sport overall. Kenin herself recently discussed her success within the past year to the press. 

“Obviously I’m playing some really good tennis at the Slams. In Australia I won, and in the US Open I got to the fourth round. I feel like I’m playing some really good tennis.”

Before 2020 Kenin had never reached the quarter-finals at any majors tournament. So the world was quite shocked when she received her maiden grand slam at Melbourne Park, breaking her into the top 10, and even surpassing Serena Williams as the number one American player. She then went on to finish at the majors with a score of 16-2. Kenin also played into the fourth round at the US Open and made it to the finals at Roland Garros as well; according to reports Kenin was the most successful US female tennis athlete of 2020. 

The 22-year-old pro is originally from Florida and is the daughter of two Russian immigrants who came to the United Stated in 1987 with $300 to their names. Her modest 5ft 7in build definitely contributed to how much she was underestimated in her rise to fame, however, as we know she quickly was able to prove any doubter wrong. 

Kenin is becoming most well-known for her backhand swing, and a calculated means of playing the sport. She’s very well-educated in terms of technique and strategy, and often performs various top-spins and timed-out drop shots that are meant to alter the rhythm in which her opponent is playing; it’s fairly complex. However, her intense fighting spirit and drive to prove anyone who underestimates her wrong, is truly her biggest strength. 

Embed from Getty Images

“I feel very special on the big stages. I love getting the crowd going and when they cheer me on! I have the most confidence on big stages and I perform really well there.”

Embed from Getty Images

No one has won more three-set matches than Kenin; who has won 10. Additionally, her nine tie-breaker wins this season was the second most on tour. When she was up against Ash Barty at the Australian Open semi-finals, fans really got to see that fighting spirit that makes Kenin so phenomenal at what she does. 

For context, Ash Barty is the world’s number one player and was playing on her home turf, not to mention the hot triple-digit Australian temperatures, and loud cheers from the crowd all being directed at her opponent. Kenin still managed to fight off two set points in the first set and then another two in the second to win the match all in straight sets. Two days after that iconic victory she would go on to play two-time major champion Garbiñe Muguruza, in a three-set final. Kenin managed to hit five straight winners, cementing her win. 

Over the past few years women’s tennis has grown exponentially and showed the world a multitude of young talented individuals who are all competing at almost equal levels of talent. Over the past 14 grand slam champions in women’s singles, nine of the victors were first-time winners; this included Kenin when she first began her career as well. 

Kenin has been adamant that she’s honored to be a part of a pool of such incredible young female talent, and has no signs of slowing down as her and the rest of pro tennis’ success stories continue to make a name for themselves the same way legends like Serena have.