American Sofia Kenin has broken through for her first grand slam title with a three-set win over two-time major winner Garbine Muguruza.
- Kenin was seeded 14th but was the underdog against the unseeded two-time major winner
- Muguruza served eight double faults in the match, including one on match point
- Before this tournament, Kenin had never progressed past the fourth round at a grand slam
Muguruza, who won the 2016 French Open and Wimbledon 2017, took out the first set before her 14th-seeded opponent took control to take out the title with the 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 win.
Kenin has become known for wearing her emotions on her sleeve during her matches, and she did so again in the decider, but it was the more experienced Muguruza who seemed to let the nerves get to her.
The Spaniard hit eight double faults and 45 unforced errors, compared to zero and 23 by her opponent.
The most telling of Muguruza’s misfires on serve came on Kenin’s second match point, handing the trophy over in disappointingly tame fashion that belied the tight two-hour contest that preceded it.
Surprisingly, the more experienced Muguruza looked more nervous in the opening exchanges, perhaps indicative of the fact that she had the pressure on her of being named the favourite for the match.
Kenin signalled a plan to run her opponent ragged with two drop shots in the first game, but Muguruza, who climbed Mt Kilimanjaro last year, was up to the task and absorbed the energy from the first-time finalist before finding the range on her groundstrokes to secure the first break in the third game.
She looked certain to go up two breaks when she reached 0-40 in a shaky Kenin service game, only for the American to save three straight break points plus another later in the game for good measure to stay within reach.
The momentum looked completely back on Kenin’s side of the net as Muguruza handed her the break back with successive double faults, levelling them scores at 4-4.
But again the pendulum swung the other way, as Muguruza broke back and Kenin threatened to break her racket.
Despite a first set plagued with serving struggles, Muguruza held her nerve to serve out the first set and take a massive step towards her first Australian Open win, pumping her fist and letting out a roar as she did so.
A quick bathroom break between sets seemed to settle Kenin’s nerves and she held serve to love. Muguruza did the same and Kenin kept the trend going with a third straight hold to love for a 2-1 lead.
That became 3-1 with a break in the next game, which she consolidated to open up a shock 1-4 lead in the set.
Kenin was dictating from the back of the court and would not let up as she held serve in the next and broke again to take the set 6-2.
The match score was even at 1-1, but the momentum was all with Kenin and a tired-looking Muguruza, who was struggling with her ball toss and landing just 54 per cent of her first serves, called for some on-court treatment on her lower back in the break.
At 1-1 in the decider, both players were trying to compose themselves — a teary Kenin to calm her nerves as she tried to keep it on serve, and Muguruza trying to get some oxygen into her lungs, which appeared to be burning as Kenin sent her from side to side.
But at 2-2, a pair of unforced errors by Kenin gave Muguruza a second look at 0-40, but again Kenin dug herself out of trouble — throwing caution to the wind to blast three straight down-the-line winners — and knocked off the next two points for another clutch hold.
To make matters worse for the Spaniard, immediately after missing her chance to break she surrendered two game points on serve and dumped a double fault into the net to give Kenin four straight points and a crucial break of serve for a 4-2 lead.
As Muguruza’s error count grew, Kenin seemed to grow an extra foot and took control of almost every rally as she channelled her palpable energy into another hold of serve, slamming a ball into the ground in celebration for what seemed like the 100th time in the match.
With Kenin one game away from glory, Muguruza was serving with a new set of balls and used them to great effect to reach 40-15, but gave it straight back with two double faults — her sixth and seventh for the match.
Kenin missed out on the first of her championship points, but Muguruza surrendered the title with a meek double fault on her second.
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