Rising star Sofia Kenin and resurgent former World No. 1 Garbine Muguruza square off for the Australian Open title on Saturday night.
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If somebody says they predicted this final before the tournament started, they are simply lying. But, with everything that has transpired over the last fortnight in Melbourne, I’m very confident that Muguruza will be winning her third Grand Slam title on Saturday night – and I think she’ll do it in style.
Muguruza was almost unstoppable when she became the only player in history to beat both Williams sisters in Grand Slam finals when she triumphed over Serena at Roland Garros in 2016 and Venus at Wimbledon in 2017 – and after two rough seasons in 2018 and 2019, she’s suddenly re-discovered that type of tennis at the Australian Open.
There was absolutely no indication this was going to happen, especially after she withdrew with a viral illness from Hobart just days before the Australian Open started and went on to lose the first set of her opening round to Shelby Rogers 0-6. The odds on Muguruza winning the tournament at that time would have been outrageous.
But the Venezuelan-born Spaniard has flipped the switch and has only dropped one set since, steamrolling Rogers 6-0 6-1 in their next two sets and overcoming Aussie favourite Ajla Tomljanovic in three sets in the second round. From there, Muguruza has been supremely dominant, conquering three top 10 players in straight sets (Elina Svitolina, Kiki Bertens and Simona Halep), while she also upstaged an extremely in-form Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who was playing top 10 level tennis herself.
The point is once Muguruza gets on this type of roll, the very best in the world have failed to stop her in the past – which I don’t think bodes well for Sofia Kenin.
The American is without doubt a special and rising talent, but I think she might get a bit overwhelmed with the power coming from the other side of the net on Saturday night. Before facing Ashleigh Barty in the semi-finals, the average rank of Kenin’s opponents in her first five matches in Melbourne was 95, while let’s be honest – Barty didn’t even play top 30 tennis on Thursday, let alone the standard expected of a World No. 1.
Barty was understandably nervous and Kenin’s steady and reliable baseline game took advantage, but that won’t be enough in the final. Muguruza shouldn’t be feeling many nerves – she’s been here before and won two slam titles, while her steely presence and quotes she’s been giving off over the last week makes me think she has her eyes firmly fixated on the prize. Muguruza will also attack Kenin’s serve, especially the second delivery, so the American won’t have any breathing room there.
Kenin won their only previous meeting towards the end of last year in three sets, but that match doesn’t matter with Muguruza back to her best. The Spaniard has been operating at a ridiculously high level in her last four matches and I think she’s set for a one-sided victory and a third Grand Slam title on Saturday night.
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- Sofia Kenin: $2.38