Tennis

Unwavering self-belief helps Sofia Kenin turn into Barty-pooper

Sofia Kenin found herself trailing Ashleigh Barty for most of yesterday's Australian Open semi-final, but the American never doubted she had what it takes to beat the world No. 1 in front of her home fans.

While Barty came into the match holding the head-to-head advantage, Kenin was not short on confidence, having tied the Australian for hard-court wins (38) last year, when she reached a career-high world ranking of 12th.

Even when French Open champion Barty took the initiative with her big forehands and backhand slices, Kenin still kept her confidence to prevail 7-6 (8-6), 7-5 and book her spot in tomorrow's final against the unseeded Garbine Muguruza.

"I believed I could win, even though I had two set-points down in the first and second," said the 21-year-old.

Kenin is used to playing the role of party spoiler, having defeated 15-year-old fellow American Coco Gauff in the fourth round.

Despite the partisan crowd at Rod Laver Arena willing Barty to become Australia's first home-grown women's champion since Chris O'Neil in 1978, Kenin was not intimidated.

SORRY

"I'd like to first apologise to all of the Australian fans. I know they wanted her to win, it's not easy for them," said Kenin.

"Of course, I knew they were cheering for Ash. There was some interesting cheers.

"I liked it, but it wasn't for me. I just tried to lock it out and focus on each point."

Barty took things into perspective, carrying her 12-week-old niece Olivia to the post-match press conference.

"This is what life is all about, it's amazing," said the 23-year-old, gazing fondly at the baby.

"Perspective is a beautiful thing. Life is a beautiful thing. She made me smile as soon as I came off the court. I got to give her a hug."

On her match, Barty said she didn't feel super-comfortable, adding: "I felt like my first plan wasn't working. I couldn't execute the way that I wanted. I tried to go to B and C...

"I'm two points away from winning that in straight sets, which is disappointing."

But the French Open champion added that she will be putting what she learnt into practice soon. - REUTERS, AFP

Tennis