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Sofia Kenin

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Sofia Kenin
Kenin RG19 (7) (48199245357).jpg
Kenin at the 2019 French Open
Full nameSofia Anna Kenin
Country (sports) United States
ResidencePembroke Pines, Florida, U.S.
Born (1998-11-14) November 14, 1998 (age 21)
Moscow, Russia
Height5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)
Turned pro2017
PlaysRight-handed (two-handed backhand)
CoachAlex Kenin
Prize moneyUS$7,221,702
Official websitesonyakenin.com
Singles
Career record214–120 (64.1%)
Career titles5
Highest rankingNo. 4 (March 9, 2020)
Current rankingNo. 4 (October 12, 2020)
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian OpenW (2020)
French OpenF (2020)
Wimbledon2R (2018, 2019)
US Open4R (2020)
Other tournaments
Tour FinalsRR (2019)
Doubles
Career record61–49 (55.5%)
Career titles2
Highest rankingNo. 31 (August 31, 2020)
Current rankingNo. 31 (October 12, 2020)
Grand Slam Doubles results
Australian Open3R (2020)
French OpenQF (2020)
Wimbledon2R (2018)
US Open2R (2020)
Team competitions
Fed CupF (2018)
Last updated on: October 15, 2020.

Sofia Anna Kenin[1] (born November 14, 1998), nicknamed Sonya, is an American professional tennis player. She has a career-high Women's Tennis Association (WTA) ranking of No. 4 in the world and is the top-ranked American in women's singles. Kenin is the reigning champion at the Australian Open (becoming the youngest American to win a Grand Slam women's singles title since Serena Williams in 2002) and was also the runner-up at the 2020 French Open. She was named the WTA Most Improved Player of the Year in 2019, making her the first American to win the award also since Williams in 1999. Kenin has won five WTA singles titles in total. She has also won two WTA doubles titles, including the 2019 China Open at the Premier Mandatory level with Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Kenin was a child prodigy whose ability attracted the attention of veteran coach Rick Macci at the age of five. Coached primarily by her father, Kenin became a promising junior player, reaching No. 2 in the world after winning the Orange Bowl at the age of 16 and finishing runner-up in the 2015 US Open girls' singles event the following year. She also won the USTA Girls 18s National Championship during that summer. On the professional tour, Kenin made her debut in the top 100 of the WTA rankings in 2018 as a teenager. She reached her first four WTA singles finals in 2019, three of which she won, and finished the year ranked inside the top 15. Kenin's championship run at the 2020 Australian Open was highlighted by a victory over home favorite and world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty. Before that title, her best result at a Grand Slam tournament came at the 2019 French Open, where she defeated Serena Williams and made it to the fourth round.

Early life and background[edit]

Sofia Kenin was born in Moscow to Alexander and Svetlana Kenin. Her family moved to the United States a few months after she was born. They had previously left the Soviet Union to live in New York City in 1987 but returned to Russia for Kenin's birth so that other family members could help raise her initially. Her mother had worked as a nurse in the Soviet Union, and her parents had only $286 when they first moved to the United States.[2][3]

Kenin began playing tennis at the age of five, drawing inspiration from her father who had played recreationally. Her parents recognized her potential and arranged for her to begin training with Rick Macci in Broward County, Florida. Macci coached Kenin for seven years until she was twelve. He remarked, "Back then [when Kenin was five], I came right out and said Sofia was the scariest little creature I’d ever seen. It was unique: the hand-eye coordination and her ability to take the ball immediately right after the bounce. I have a lot of kids do that, but it was almost like it was baked in already, even though she was little and the racket was actually bigger than her. The only player I’ve seen like that is [former world No. 1] Martina Hingis."[2] Kenin has also worked with Nick Bollettieri.[3] Her primary coach has always been her father.[2]

Kenin had success in tennis at a young age, which garnered widespread attention in the tennis community and helped put her on the covers of tennis magazines.[2] Kenin began playing in United States Tennis Association (USTA) girls' 10-and-under tournaments at the age of seven, and became the top-ranked player in Florida in that division. She later was ranked No. 1 in the USTA national rankings for each of the 12, 14, 16, and 18-and-under divisions.[3] Kenin had the opportunity to interact with ATP and WTA professional tennis players as a young child, including hitting with Anna Kournikova at age seven, partnering with Jim Courier against Venus Williams and Todd Martin as part of an exhibition event,[4][5] and receiving a tour of the Miami Open from Kim Clijsters.[6]

Junior career[edit]

Kenin with the USTA Girls' 18s National Championship trophy

Kenin reached a career-high of No. 2 in the ITF junior rankings.[7] She began playing in low-level Grade 4 events on the ITF Junior Circuit in 2012 at the age of 13. After winning her first titles in both singles and doubles in 2013, she progressed to the Grade 1 level.[7] Towards the end of the year, she made her Grade A debut at the Orange Bowl, reaching the semifinals in singles and finishing runner-up in doubles with Kaitlyn McCarthy to Tornado Alicia Black and Naiktha Bains.[8] Kenin made her junior Grand Slam debut in 2014, but only recorded one match win in singles while playing in the latter three events of the year.[7] Following the US Open, Kenin represented the United States at the Junior Fed Cup alongside CiCi Bellis and Black. The team won the tournament, sweeping Slovakia 3–0 in the final. Kenin went undefeated in her five matches, all in doubles.[9] Her next breakthrough came towards the end of the year when she won the Orange Bowl, defeating Bellis and Ingrid Neel in the last two rounds.[10]

Kenin built on that success in 2015 by winning the USTA International Spring Championships, a Grade 1 tournament.[11] During the summer, she won the USTA Girls 18s National Championship as the No. 3 seed, defeating the No. 1 seed Black in the final. With the title, she earned a wild card into the main draw of the 2015 US Open.[12] Kenin also participated in the junior event at the US Open and finished runner-up to Dalma Gálfi, her best performance at a junior Grand Slam event.[13] This result helped her rise to No. 2 in the world by the end of the year.[7] Kenin continued to play on the junior tour in 2016 while primarily playing in professional events on the ITF Women's Circuit. At the US Open, she again produced one of her best results of the year, losing in the semifinals to Viktória Kužmová after upsetting the No. 1 seed Anastasia Potapova in the previous round.[14][15]

Professional career[edit]

2013–17: US Open debut, three ITF titles[edit]

Kenin at the 2015 US Open

Kenin began playing low-level tournaments on the ITF circuit in 2013 and won her first two professional matches at the age of 14.[16] With her wild card from winning the USTA junior national championship, she made her Grand Slam debut at the 2015 US Open, losing her opening match to Mariana Duque-Mariño.[4] The following year, Kenin won her first two ITF titles, the first at a $25K event in Wesley Chapel in Florida and the second at a $50K event in Sacramento in California.[16] The latter title helped her win the US Open Wild Card Challenge to earn a wild card into the main draw of the US Open for the second time.[17] At the US Open, she lost her first round match to Karolína Plíšková, her only WTA Tour-level match of the year.[18]

After beginning the 2017 season ranked outside the top 200, Kenin steadily rose up the WTA rankings throughout the year while playing exclusively on the professional circuit.[16][19] She progressed into the top 150 in August after a string of successful results during the summer, including winning an ITF $60K tournament at Stockton and finishing runner-up at the Lexington $60K event. These ITF performances helped her win the US Open Wild Card Challenge for the second straight year.[20] At the 2017 US Open, Kenin advanced beyond the first round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time, defeating compatriots Lauren Davis and Sachia Vickery before losing to the 2006 champion Maria Sharapova in the third round.[21][22] These were also her first two match wins on the WTA Tour. Kenin's success at the US Open helped convince her to turn professional in September, foregoing a scholarship to attend the University of Miami.[23] She finished the year ranked No. 108 in the world.[19]

2018: Top 50, first top 10 victory[edit]

With her improved ranking, Kenin was able to play primarily on the WTA Tour in 2018. She began the year by reaching her first WTA quarterfinal at the Auckland Open.[24] After losing her first round match at the Australian Open, Kenin produced good results at both Premier Mandatory events in March. She entered the top 100 by reaching the second round of the Indian Wells Open as a qualifier.[24][25] She then qualified for and reached third round of the Miami Open, where she upset No. 11 Daria Kasatkina.[26] After losing all five of her WTA Tour matches on clay across main draws and qualifying,[16] Kenin reached her first WTA semifinal at the Mallorca Open on grass. She defeated top seed and world No. 6 Caroline Garcia for her first career top ten victory before losing to Tatjana Maria.[27][28] Kenin closed out the grass court season with a second round appearance at Wimbledon, winning her debut at the event against Maria Sakkari.[29]

Back in the United States, Kenin won another $60K title at the Berkeley Tennis Club Challenge.[30] She reached the third round of the US Open for the second consecutive year, losing to Plíšková at the event for the second time.[31] Kenin's best performance during the rest of the season came at the Tournoi de Québec, where she reached another semifinal.[32] At her next tournament, she defeated world No. 10 Julia Görges at the Wuhan Open for her second top ten victory of the year.[33] These results helped Kenin advance into the top 50 for the first time.[19]

2019: Three WTA titles, Most Improved Player of the Year, world No. 12[edit]

Kenin greatly improved in 2019, rising from outside the top 50 at the start of the year to on the cusp of the top ten by the end of the season.[19] She began her year by winning her first WTA doubles title at the Auckland Open alongside Eugenie Bouchard.[34] The following week, she won her maiden WTA singles title at the Hobart International without dropping a set during the event. She upset the top seed and No. 19 Caroline Garcia in the first round before defeating Anna Karolína Schmiedlová in the final.[35] With this success, Kenin rose to what was at the time a career-best ranking of No. 37.[36] At the Australian Open, she pushed world No. 1 Simona Halep to three sets in the second round, ultimately losing in a long two-hour-and-thirty minute match.[37] The following month, Kenin reached another WTA final at the Mexican Open, finishing runner-up to Wang Yafan despite being up a set and a break.[38] During the clay court season, Kenin improved on her results from the previous year. She reached the third round at the Italian Open, defeating compatriot Madison Keys before losing to Plíšková. Her best result on clay came at the French Open, where she reached the fourth round. During the event, she upset world No. 10 Serena Williams in the third round before losing to the eventual champion Ashleigh Barty.[39][40]

In the grass court season, Kenin won her second WTA singles title of the year at the Mallorca Open. She defeated three top 25 players in the last three rounds, all in three sets. In particular, she saved three championships points in the second set of the final against No. 13 Belinda Bencic before coming from behind to win the match.[41] Although she was seeded for the first time at a Grand Slam tournament at No. 27, she lost in the second round of Wimbledon to Dayana Yastremska.[42] Kenin's best results of the US Open Series came at the two Premier 5 tournaments where she reached the semifinals at both the Canadian Open and the Cincinnati Open. She lost to both eventual champions, Bianca Andreescu and Madison Keys respectively.[43][44] Kenin also defeated the respective world No. 1 players Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka at the time at each event, her first two victories over a top-ranked player. She also became the first player to defeat the world No. 1 in back-to-back weeks since Lindsay Davenport in 2001.[45][46] Following these tournaments, Kenin again lost to Keys in the third round of the US Open.[47]

During the Asian hard court season, Kenin won one additional title in both singles and doubles. She won her third singles title of the year at the Guangzhou International Women's Open, defeating Samantha Stosur in the final.[48] Two weeks later, she partnered with Bethanie Mattek-Sands to win her second doubles title of the year at the China Open, a Premier Mandatory event.[49] During the event, the pair defeated the team of Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens, who were ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in the world respectively at the time. This title brought her to No. 43 in the doubles rankings.[19] At the end of the season, Kenin qualified for the WTA Elite Trophy as the second seed, ranked No. 12 in the world. She won her opening match against compatriot Alison Riske, but lost to Karolína Muchová and did not advance out of her round robin group.[50][51] Kenin was also named the second alternate at the WTA Finals, behind Kiki Bertens. After Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu both withdrew, she had the opportunity to play one match, losing to the defending champion Elina Svitolina.[52][53] She finished the year ranked No. 14 in singles and No. 39 in doubles.[19] Kenin also received the WTA Most Improved Player of the Year award for her breakthrough season, becoming the first American player to win the award since Serena Williams in 1999.[54]

2020: Australian Open champion, French Open runner-up, world No. 4[edit]

Kenin carried her success at the lower-level tournaments in 2019 to the Grand Slam tournaments in 2020.[55] Despite two second-round losses to start the year, Kenin won the Australian Open for her first Grand Slam singles title. She only dropped one set before the final, which came against compatriot Coco Gauff in the fourth round. In the semifinal, she upset world No. 1 and home favorite Ashleigh Barty.[56] She then defeated Garbiñe Muguruza in the final, coming from a set down.[57] With the victory at just 21 years old, she became the youngest American woman to win a Grand Slam singles title since Serena Williams won Wimbledon in 2002.[58] She also became the youngest American to make her top 10 debut in the WTA rankings since Serena in 1999, rising to No. 7 in the world.[19][59] Kenin won another title at the inaugural Lyon Open. During the event, she saved a match point in the second round and overcame a set and 5–2 deficit in the following round as part of a stretch of four three-set matches in a row. She defeated Anna-Lena Friedsam in the final. This was Kenin's last event before the WTA Tour shut down for six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[60] At this point, she was No. 4 in the world, her career-best ranking at the time.[19]

When the tour resumed, Kenin was seeded second at the US Open due to Barty and Halep withdrawing because of the pandemic. Although she lost in the fourth round to Elise Mertens, this was her best result at the event to date.[61]

Following the tournament, Kenin travelled to Europe for the rescheduled clay court season. Although she lost her only tune-up match to US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka without winning a game,[62] Kenin continued her Grand Slam success at the French Open. She won four three-set matches during the first five rounds before defeating world No. 11 and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitová in the semifinals.[55][63] She lost the final in straight sets to Iga Świątek and returned to No. 4 in the world.[64]

National representation[edit]

Kenin (right) with the 2014 Junior Fed Cup champion United States team

After winning the Junior Fed Cup in 2014, Kenin was nominated for her first senior Fed Cup tie in the 2018 final against the Czech Republic. Both teams were missing their best players, with the Williams sisters, Sloane Stephens, and Madison Keys for the United States, as well as Plíšková and Petra Kvitová for the Czech Republic all unavailable.[65] Kenin and Alison Riske were selected to play singles against Barbora Strýcová and Kateřina Siniaková. Kenin lost both of her singles matches in three sets, as the Czech Republic swept the tie 3–0 to win the Fed Cup. The decisive third rubber between Kenin and Siniaková was particularly close. The match lasted three hours and forty-five minutes and ended with Siniaková needing to save two match points on Kenin's serve in the third set before coming from behind to win.[66]

Kenin represented the United States again in 2019. In the first round against Australia, she lost her only match to Ashleigh Barty who won both of her singles rubbers as well as the decisive doubles rubber to lead Australia to a 3–2 victory. The United States' next tie was against Switzerland as part of the World Group Play-offs. After Keys lost the first match and Stephens won both of her singles rubbers, Kenin was selected to play the last singles rubber against Timea Bacsinszky. Kenin defeated Bacsinszky to win the tie 3–1 and keep the United States in the World Group for 2020.[67]

A week after winning the 2020 Australian Open, Kenin represented the United States in the Fed Cup Qualifying Round. She defeated Anastasija Sevastova in the opening match of the rubber against Latvia.[68] The following day she lost to Jeļena Ostapenko while Serena Williams lost to Sevastova. This forced a fifth and decisive doubles rubber match between Kenin/Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and Ostapenko/Sevastova. The American duo won in two sets in only 75 minutes to send the United States to the Fed Cup Finals.[69]

World TeamTennis[edit]

Kenin played her first year of World TeamTennis on Billie Jean King's Philadelphia Freedoms in the 2020 season [70]

In her WTT 2020 debut season, she was the top singles player for majority of the season and ended the season with a 60% winning percentage (games won-lost). The Freedoms advanced to the WTT Playoffs as the No. 1 seed, but ultimately fell to the New York Empire, who continued on to win the Championship, in the semifinals.

Playing style[edit]

Kenin has an aggressive style of play that is built around incorporating a variety of shots into her game rather than just power. She plays primarily from the baseline and can hit winners with both her forehand and backhand. She excels at disguising whether her backhand is going cross-court or down the line. Two of Kenin's best shots are her backhand down the line and her inside-in forehand. She can also strategically add slice to her backhand, which she may use to hit well-disguised drop shot winners. On the defensive side, Kenin is capable of hitting her forehand even as high as shoulder height.[71][72][73] Petra Kvitová had noticed Kenin's aggressive style of play in early 2018, a trait Kenin's father said she developed in 2017, her first full year on the professional tour. She had previously been described by Maria Sharapova as more of a "grinder", a counter-puncher who has good movement and can get a lot of balls back in play.[71][74][75]

Kenin's serve toss is extremely unorthodox, as between the time she tosses the ball up and hits it, she almost exclusively looks downwards and not at the ball.

Personal life[edit]

Kenin has a younger sister.[76] Her childhood tennis idols were Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Kenin particularly has praised Sharapova's fierce competitiveness.[77]

Career statistics[edit]

Grand Slam tournament performance timelines[edit]

Key
W  F  SF QF #R RR Q# A NH
(W) Won; (F) finalist; (SF) semifinalist; (QF) quarterfinalist; (#R) rounds 4, 3, 2, 1; (RR) round-robin stage; (Q#) qualification round; (A) absent; (NH) not held. SR=strike rate (events won/competed)
To avoid confusion and double counting, these charts are updated at the conclusion of a tournament or when the player's participation has ended.

Singles[edit]

Tournament 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 SR W–L Win %
Australian Open A A A 1R 2R W 1 / 3 8–2 80%
French Open A A A 1R 4R F 0 / 3 9–3 75%
Wimbledon A A Q1 2R 2R NH 0 / 2 2–2 50%
US Open 1R 1R 3R 3R 3R 4R 0 / 6 9–6 60%
Win–Loss 0–1 0–1 2–1 3–4 7–4 16–2 1 / 14 28–13 68%
Career statistics
Titles 0 0 0 0 3 2 Career total: 5
Finals 0 0 0 0 4 3 Career total: 7
Year-end ranking 620 212 108 52 14 $7,221,702

Doubles[edit]

Tournament 2018 2019 2020 SR W–L Win %
Australian Open A 1R 3R 0 / 2 2–2 50%
French Open A 2R QF 0 / 2 4–2 67%
Wimbledon 2R 1R NH 0 / 2 1–2 33%
US Open 1R 1R 2R 0 / 3 1–3 25%
Win–Loss 1–2 1–4 6–3 0 / 9 8–9 47%
Career statistics
Titles 0 2 0 Career total: 2
Finals 0 2 0 Career total: 2
Year-end ranking 138 39

Grand Slam tournament finals[edit]

Singles: 2 (1 title, 1 runner-up)[edit]

Result Year Tournament Surface Opponent Score
Win 2020 Australian Open Hard Spain Garbiñe Muguruza 4–6, 6–2, 6–2
Loss 2020 French Open Clay Poland Iga Świątek 4–6, 1–6

References[edit]

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