American 14th seed Sofia Kenin stunned world number one Ashleigh Barty on Thursday (January 30) to reach her first Grand Slam final and become the youngest Melbourne finalist since 2008.
Kenin collected a 7-6(6) 7-5 win over Barty to keep Australia’s 42-year-long wait for a home-grown Australian Open champion continuing.
“It was really tough. I knew she was not going to give up to me. I really needed to fight out there. She’s a great player. There’s a reason she’s world No 1,” said Kenin describing her thoughts during the course of the game.
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Unforced errors did not help the host nation’s sweetheart after she made 36 to Kenin’s 25. The match took an unexpected turn when the 23-year-old was defeated in straight sets when she was expected to win the same way.
“I’ve just dreamed about this moment since I was five-years-old with that Andy Roddrick video. I’m speechless. I worked really hard to get here,” said Kenin thanking her father who is also her coach.
Kenin now awaits to face the winner of the second semi-final between world number three Simona Halep and unseeded Gabrine Muguruza in the season’s first Grand Slam final showdown.
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Former world number one Halep, who is seeking her third grand slam crown, will be taking on Spain’s Muguruza bidding to reach her second Australian Open final at the Rod Laver Arena.
Moscow-born Kenin, 21, looked stunned at reaching her first Grand Slam final, at a tournament where she has often gone unnoticed while fellow Americans Serena Williams and 15-year-old Coco Gauff hogged the headlines.
Her win came on a day when temperatures hit 38 Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit), prompting play to be suspended on outside courts — following earlier problems with bushfire smoke, downpours, wind and even muddy rain at the season’s opening Major.
Federer vs Djokovic
Later on Rod Laver Arena, Federer and Djokovic — who have carved up 12 of the last 14 Australian Open titles between them — will play for a place in the final.
Djokovic, 32, leads 38-year-old Federer 26-23 in their head-to-head, and while the Serbian has moved serenely into the last four, Federer made it by the skin of his teeth.
He was two points from defeat against John Millman in the third round and, incredibly, saved seven match points in his quarter-final against Tennys Sandgren.
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A groin problem during Federer’s miraculous escape against Sandgren could also hinder his chances of making it seven titles in Melbourne and stretching his record for Major wins to 21.
But Djokovic says Federer’s heroics against the 100th-ranked American are exactly why the 20-time Grand Slam winner is to be feared.
“What he did was amazing, he showed me he’s one of the best players of all time,” said Djokovic, who is targeting a record eighth title in Melbourne.
“I mean, he never gives up. When it matters the most, he’s focused and he plays his best tennis. He’s a great fighter.”
The other semi-final, on Friday, is between Dominic Thiem — who shocked world number one Rafael Nadal — and Alexander Zverev, the long-admired German talent who is into a Grand Slam last four for the first time.
(With inputs from agencies)