By winning her first major at the Australian Open, reaching the final at Roland Garros and adding WTA player of the year title, Kenin—in our eyes—has rightfully graduated from most improved to player of the year on the women’s tour.
Notable 2020 Stats OF Sofia Kenin
Titles: Australian Open, Lyon
Finals: Roland Garros
Win-loss record: 24-9
Key wins: Ashleigh Barty, Petra Kvitova, Garbine Muguruza
In 2019, Sofia Kenin made tremendous headway on the WTA Tour to emerge as a player to watch in the new decade and also to feature herself as a WTA Player of the year in the process too. It was a season that saw the American pick up her first three titles, stunning Serena Williams at Roland Garros and knock out successive world No. 1s in Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka at Toronto and Cincinnati. Finishing at No. 14, Kenin was deservedly named the WTA’s 2019 Most Improved Player of the Year and WTA player of the year.
Twelve months later, the 2020 year-end rankings highlight how Kenin’s advancements were just getting started to claim the spot of WTA player of the year. The number beside her name, 4, is layered in complexity. One measure implemented by each tour during the evolving COVID-19 pandemic was adopting a “Best of 2019 or 2020” rankings model in March.
That enabled Barty, who didn’t play a single tournament after February 28, to keep hold of the top position. Simona Halep was consistently great, winning three titles to go 23-3—through like Barty, retained champion points from a 2019 Grand Slam event (Wimbledon). Osaka shone brightest in New York City by winning all 11 matches she played at Flushing Meadows.
Yet, in a season with fewer opportunities to make a significant impact, it was Kenin who accumulated more than 1,000 points than any other competitor. By winning her first major at the Australian Open, reaching the final at Roland Garros and adding a second.
WTA player of the year, Sofia Kenin – rightfully graduated
WTA title, Kenin—in our eyes—has rightfully graduated from most improved to player of the year.
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As several first-time major winners have learned, adjusting to life after Grand Slam glory can be a challenging transition. Following a victorious debut as the new U.S. No. 1 at the Billie Jean Cup Finals qualifier in Everett, Wash., Kenin lost her second singles match to Jelena Ostapenko. She reunited for a cool full-circle moment with Clijsters in Dubai but was tripped up in her first hurdle there and in Doha.
“A lot of matches where I was down,” Kenin
“I’ve had a lot of matches where I was down match point and managed to win or win the tournament. I really had to put myself in a state of mind to believe in myself and not give up,” she told TENNIS.com at the BNP Paribas Open after arriving to the cancelled tournament. “Coming off the Australian Open, there was a lot of expectations and people looking at me, with all different kinds of pressure. I managed to deal with it and finish off strong.”
“I was really looking forward to coming here, playing in front of my fans. Of course, after Australia, I was really excited to see them. I just want everything to be fine, nothing to do with my tennis. It’s really unfortunate what’s happening.”
Kenin’s last win of the year was her strongest since she walked off Rod Laver Arena, a 6-4, 7-5 semifinal victory over two-time Wimbledon titlist Petra Kvitova. Though Iga Swiatek would complete a sensational fortnight to join the American in the major winner’s club, Kenin had plenty of reason to hold her head high in Paris.
She had never been beyond the round of 16 at any clay-court event on tour before, and after being served a double bagel, was as far under the radar as any incoming Grand Slam champion could be.
If anything, Kenin once again showed if counted out, she’ll fight for every point just to prove she’s right and a rightly deserving -WTA player of the year.