'I'm so grateful and thankful for this moment', says Kenin after beating Barty
MELBOURNE - World number 15 Sofia Kenin on Thursday upset top seed Ash Barty 7-6 (8-6), 7-5 on her own home soil in extremely hot conditions to reach her first career slam final at the Australian Open.
In the opener, the 23-year-old Australian wasted three shots at a break on 3-2, putting two slice backhands in the net and a forehand return long.
Barty did not get another chance to take the lead, and offered Kenin no looks at all. In the tiebreak she wasted a 4-2 lead and then two set point chances, with the American converting her lone shot at a lead to take the first set in just under an hour.
After 69 minutes of play Barty pocketed the first break of the match and consolidated it on her serve for a 3-1 lead. The world number one had two set points on 5-4, but Kenin voided one with a winner and Barty hit a forehand long to waste the second.
The American then failed to convert her first break point of the match, but not the second, bringing things back to 5-5. After a strong hold by the American, Barty made two unforced errors - including her first double fault of the match - to hand Kenin two match points.
Barty hit a winner to defuse the first but then hit a long ball to put an end to her dream run. With the win, Kenin becomes the youngest woman to reach an Australian Open final in 12 years.
"I'm so grateful and thankful for this moment," an incredulous Kenin said. "Honestly I'm just so speechless. I honestly can't believe it. I've just dreamed about this moment since I was five years old ... I've worked so hard to get here."
"At the end of the day she played the biggest points well," Barty said after the defeat.
"I mean I kind of felt like I was scrapping and trying to find what I wanted to do best and came within a couple of points of winning the match but sometimes, you know, it folds your way and sometimes it doesn't ... that's sport, that's life."
The contest was played in extreme heat conditions, with temperatures in Melbourne up to 39 degrees Celsius according to Victoria's Bureau of Meteorology, and would have seen an extended 10-minute break between sets had it gone to a third due to the tournament's Extreme Heat Policy.
Had the conditions worsened during play, the game could have ended up suspended to allow the roof at Rod Laver Arena to close. This could still happen in either of the other two semi-finals contested on the court on Thursday.
Play on all outside courts, where juniors and wheelchair competitions are underway, were already suspended for at least half an hour in the afternoon.dpa