Sofia Kenin

Sofia Anna Kenin[1] (nicknamed Sonya, /ˈsniə ˈkɛnɪn/ SOH-nee-ə KEN-in;[2] born November 14, 1998) is an American professional tennis player. She has a career-high Women's Tennis Association (WTA) ranking of No. 4 in the world. Kenin is the reigning champion at the Australian Open and the youngest American to win a Grand Slam women's singles title since Serena Williams in 2002. She was named the WTA Most Improved Player of the Year in 2019, making her the first American to win the award also since Serena 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.

Sofia Kenin
Kenin RG19 (7) (48199245357).jpg
Kenin at the 2019 French Open
Country (sports) United States
ResidencePembroke Pines, Florida, US
Born (1998-11-14) November 14, 1998 (age 21)
Moscow, Russia
Height1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)
Turned pro2017
PlaysRight-handed
(two-handed backhand)
CoachAlex Kenin
Prize moneyUS$ 5,930,775
Official websitesonyakenin.com
Singles
Career record205–116 (63.9%)
Career titles5
Highest rankingNo. 4 (March 9, 2020)
Current rankingNo. 4 (March 9, 2020)
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian OpenW (2020)
French Open4R (2019)
Wimbledon2R (2018, 2019)
US Open3R (2017, 2018, 2019)
Other tournaments
Tour FinalsRR (2019)
Doubles
Career record56–45 (55.4%)
Career titles2
Highest rankingNo. 32 (March 2, 2020)
Current rankingNo. 32 (March 9, 2020)
Grand Slam Doubles results
Australian Open3R (2020)
French Open2R (2019)
Wimbledon2R (2018)
US Open1R (2018, 2019)
Team competitions
Fed CupF (2018)
Last updated on: March 11, 2020.

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 at 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 four WTA singles finals in 2019, three of which she won. Kenin's championship run at the 2020 Australian Open was highlighted by a victory over home favorite and world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty. Before this 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 backgroundEdit

Sofia Kenin was born on November 14, 1998 in Moscow to Alexander and Lena 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 little money when they first moved to the United States. 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."[3][4] Her primary coach has always been her father.[3]

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.[3] 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.[4] 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,[5][6] and receiving a tour of the Miami Open from Kim Clijsters.[7] She has also worked in the past with American tennis coach Nicholas James Bollettieri.[8]

Junior careerEdit

 
Kenin with the USTA Girls' 18s National Championship trophy

Kenin reached a career-high of No. 2 in the ITF junior rankings.[9] 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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[9] 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.[11] 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.[12]

Kenin built on that success in 2015 by winning the USTA International Spring Championships, a Grade 1 tournament.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15] This result helped her rise to No. 2 in the world by the end of the year.[9] 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.[16][17]

Professional careerEdit

2013–17: US Open debut, three ITF titlesEdit

 
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.[18] 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.[5] 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.[18] 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.[19] At the US Open, she lost her first round match to Karolína Plíšková, her only WTA Tour-level match of the year.[20]

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.[18][21] 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.[22] 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.[23][24] 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.[25] She finished the year ranked No. 108 in the world.[21]

2018: Top 50, first top 10 victoryEdit

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.[26] 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.[26][27] She then qualified for and reached third round of the Miami Open, where she upset No. 11 Daria Kasatkina.[28] After losing all five of her WTA Tour matches on clay across main draws and qualifying,[18] 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.[29][30] Kenin closed out the grass court season with a second round appearance at Wimbledon, winning her debut at the event against Maria Sakkari.[31]

Back in the United States, Kenin won another $60K title at the Berkeley Tennis Club Challenge.[32] She reached the third round of the US Open for the second consecutive year, losing to Plíšková at the event for the second time.[33] Kenin's best performance during the rest of the season came at the Tournoi de Québec, where she reached another semifinal.[34] At her next tournament, she defeated world No. 10 Julia Görges at the Wuhan Open for her second top ten victory of the year.[35] These results helped Kenin advance into the top 50 for the first time.[21]

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

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.[21] She began her year by winning her first WTA doubles title at the Auckland Open alongside Eugenie Bouchard.[36] 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.[37] With this success, Kenin rose to what was at the time a career-best ranking of No. 37.[38] 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.[39] 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.[40] 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.[41][42]

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.[43] 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.[44] 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.[45][46] 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.[47][48] Following these tournaments, Kenin again lost to Keys in the third round of the US Open.[49]

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.[50] 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.[51] 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.[21] 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.[52][53] 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.[54][55] She finished the year ranked No. 14 in singles and No. 39 in doubles.[21] 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.[56]

2020: Australian Open championEdit

Kenin opened the season by playing the Premier-level events at Brisbane and Adelaide, falling in the second round of both tournaments to Osaka and compatriot Danielle Collins respectively.[citation needed] She also played doubles with Mattek-Sands in Adelaide, but the pair fell in the semifinals to the eventual champions Nicole Melichar and Xu Yifan.[citation needed] Seeded 14th at the Australian Open, Kenin recorded straight set wins over qualifiers Martina Trevisan and compatriot Ann Li to reach the third round for the first time. She then overcame a double break deficit in the first set to defeat 2016 quarterfinalist Zhang Shuai and advance to the fourth round, where she defeated Coco Gauff to reach the quarterfinals. Kenin went on to defeat Ons Jabeur in straight sets, advancing to her first semifinal at a Grand Slam championship. She then defeated the top seed Ashleigh Barty in straight sets to reach the final, where she defeated Garbiñe Muguruza in three sets to claim the trophy.[57][58]

After winning the Australian Open, she played in the Dubai Tennis Championships where she lost in the first round to eventual finalist Elena Rybakina in three sets.[citation needed] She then entered the Qatar Total Open where she again lost in the first round, to Dayana Yastremska in straight sets.[citation needed]

In March, Kenin won her fifth WTA singles title, defeating Anna-Lena Friedsam in the finals of the inaugural Lyon Open in Lyon, France.[citation needed]

National representationEdit

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

Having won 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.[59] 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.[60]

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.[61]

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.[62] 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.[63]

World TeamTennisEdit

Kenin will be playing her first year of World TeamTennis when she joins Billie Jean King's Philadelphia Freedoms during the 2020 season set to begin July 12.[64]

Playing styleEdit

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.[65][66][67] 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.[65][68][69]

Career statisticsEdit

Grand Slam tournament performance timelinesEdit

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.

SinglesEdit

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 0 / 2 3–2 60%
Wimbledon A A Q1 2R 2R NH 0 / 2 2–2 50%
US Open 1R 1R 3R 3R 3R 0 / 5 6–5 55%
Win–Loss 0–1 0–1 2–1 3–4 7–4 7–0 1 / 12 19–11 63%
Career statistics
Titles 0 0 0 0 3 2 Career total: 5
Finals 0 0 0 0 4 2 Career total: 6
Year-end ranking 620 212 108 52 14 $5,835,240

DoublesEdit

Tournament 2018 2019 2020 SR W–L Win %
Australian Open A 1R 3R 0 / 2 2–2 50%
French Open A 2R 0 / 1 1–1 50%
Wimbledon 2R 1R NH 0 / 2 1–2 33%
US Open 1R 1R 0 / 2 0–2 0%
Win–Loss 1–2 1–4 2–1 0 / 7 4–7 36%
Career statistics
Titles 0 2 0 Career total: 2
Finals 0 2 0 Career total: 2
Year-end ranking 138 39

Grand Slam tournament finalsEdit

Singles: 1 (1 title)Edit

Result Year Tournament Surface Opponent Score
Win 2020 Australian Open Hard   Garbiñe Muguruza 4–6, 6–2, 6–2

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit