Sofia Kenin is set to overtake Serena Williams as America’s top-ranked player after her stunning triumph at the Australian Open.
The Russia-born American claimed her first grand slam title on Saturday, fighting back to beat Garbine Muguruza 4-6 6-2 6-2 in the final at Melbourne Park.
The 21-year-old will now leapfrog 23-time major champion Williams to reach No.7 in the WTA rankings, becoming the top-ranked American player.
Somewhat fittingly, Kenin’s Australian Open triumph made her the youngest American to win a major since Serena in 2002 at the US Open.
Kenin will now join her role model on the USA team for an upcoming Fed Cup qualifier, but she was also keen to highlight her Russian roots and the “feisty” approach she learned from Maria Sharapova, a five-time grand slam winner.
“I definitely think [my Russian heritage] helped me,” Kenin told a news conference on Saturday night.
“I’ve looked up to Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournikova. I followed their matches when I was little.
“I feel like I got the feisty [approach]. I saw what it’s like. She won a grand slam at 17, Maria, which I remember watching on TV. Yeah, I feel like that definitely helped me.
“I have part of Russian stuff inside me, the fight that I have, trying just to be confident, do what I do best.”
Kenin was over the moon to learn she’s now America’s No.1 player.
“Thank you to my parents for giving me the American dream,” she said.
“[Being the American No.1] is exciting. I’m so happy. I was told if I would win, I’d be No.7 [in the world].
“It’s such an honour. I love representing the US. I just love it.
“Everything is coming into place, a dream come true. Everything I’ve done, all the hard work I’ve been doing is paying off.
“It’s such an honour. I’ve watched Serena. I’ve been following her, all the slams she’s been winning. It’s a special feeling just to be ahead of her.
“I’m just super excited. I can’t wait to compete, be on the same team with her in the Fed Cup.”
Kenin’s miraculous escape
As well as dropping the first set to Muguruza, Kenin recovered from a 0-40 deficit on her serve at 2-2 in the decider.
“I’m so proud. Obviously not many people can do that,” she said.
“I feel like mental toughness has been a huge part. I’ve worked on that over the course of the years. It’s just paying off.
“I knew I had to take my chance. I had to be brave by playing a two-time grand slam champion. All respect to her. She played a really tough match. Every point was such a battle.”
Kenin is the 11th different champion in the 13 grand slams since the start of 2017, yet she was hoping to enjoy a period of dominance going forward.
“I would love to. That would be amazing,” she said.
“Right now, I mean, I still can’t believe what just happened. I need to somehow come down and just let it all sink in.
“Hopefully, I can just keep going, build on everything that I’ve done these past two weeks, just move forward.”