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2020 Australian Open: Women's final preview

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Roar Guru
30th January, 2020
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And then there were two.

After a titanic fortnight that saw the likes of Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Karolina Pliskova and Angelique Kerber all fail to make the quarter-finals, and title favourites Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep fall in the semi-finals, it will be left to Sofia Kenin and Garbine Muguruza to battle it out for the first grand slam title of the new decade.

Just when we thought it would be Barty and Halep that would face off in tomorrow night’s women’s final, instead it will be their respective semi-final victors that will face off with a maiden Australian Open title at stake.

Kenin broke local hearts by saving two set points in each set en route to upsetting Barty in straight sets, thus advancing to her first major final at just age 21 in the process.

Neither Kenin nor Barty were able to break each other’s serve in the opening set, which went to a tiebreak that the American would win after she saved two set points at 4-6 down.

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It looked as though Barty would fight her way back into the contest when she broke early in the second set, only for Kenin to reel off consecutive games and then break at the death to score her third win over a reigning world number one, and second against Barty overall.

This followed on from wins over the likes of Ons Jabeur and Coco Gauff, the third-round victor over dethroned champion Naomi Osaka, in the previous rounds.

She becomes the seventh American woman this century (after Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati, the Williams sisters, Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens) to reach a major final, and the fifth to do so at the Australian Open (neither Keys nor Stephens have yet reached a final here).

For someone who going into the new decade had never previously reached a major quarter-final, this is an impressive feat. You could also tell from this video in 2005 that she was going to be a superstar in the making.

Less than 14 years later, this same girl would defeat Serena Williams at the French Open, and here she is now in her maiden grand slam final at the Australian Open.

Standing in the way of 21-year-old Kenin and a maiden major title is unseeded Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, who after losing the first set of her first match 6-0 and staring down the barrel of a third straight first-round exit at a major, is into her fourth final at this level.

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The two-time grand slam champion arrived Down Under unseeded after a disappointing 2019 season in which she failed to progress past the quarter-finals at any of the four majors, and won only one title after her opponent, Victoria Azarenka, retired in the final of the Monterrey Open.

However, an off-season in which she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro may have planted the seeds for a potential third major title, and first in Australia, which would see her enter the US Open later this year with the chance to complete her grand slam set.

She was slow to get going, enduring three-set victories against Shelby Rogers and Ajla Tomljanovic in her first two matches, and many thought her tournament would come to another premature end when she faced up to fifth seed Elina Svitolina in the third round.

From there, the Spaniard would produce some of her best grand slam-winning form to thrash the Ukrainian in straight sets, and just got better from there.

Garbine Muguruza

(PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

Subsequent wins against world number ten Kiki Bertens, 30th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep have now seen her become the first Spanish woman to reach the Australian Open final since her coach, Conchita Martinez, in 1998.

Her win against Halep was her fourth from as many hard-court meetings, and was arguably some of the best tennis she has played over this past fortnight.

Once again, Muguruza will come up against an American in a major final, though this time it will be Sofia Kenin on the other side of the net after having faced, and defeated, both the Williams sisters in two of her first three major finals (her loss to Serena at Wimbledon in 2015 is the only blemish).

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While Kenin is the higher ranked of the two, the Spaniard’s experience of having previously played in (and won) multiple major finals will see her start as a slight favourite tomorrow evening.

Here is the all-important information you need to know ahead of the 2020 Australian Open women’s singles final.

[14] Sofia Kenin (USA) vs Garbine Muguruza (ESP)

When: Saturday, February 1, 7:45pm (AEDT)
Where: Rod Laver Arena
All matches: Muguruza 1-0
At the majors: First meeting
In finals: First meeting
Last meeting: Muguruza won 6-0, 2-6, 6-2, second round, 2019 China Open.

Sofia Kenin’s road to the final

Round 1: defeated Martina Trevisan (ITA) 6-2, 6-4
Round 2: defeated Ann Li (USA) 6-1, 6-3
Round 3: defeated Zhang Shuai (CHN) 7-5, 7-6 (9-7)
Round 4: defeated Coco Gauff (USA) 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-0
Quarter-final: defeated Ons Jabeur (TUN) 6-4, 6-4
Semi-final: defeated [1] Ashleigh Barty (AUS) 7-6 (8-6), 7-5

Garbine Muguruza’s road to the final

Round 1: defeated Shelby Rogers (USA) 0-6, 6-1, 6-0
Round 2: defeated Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
Round 3: defeated [5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) 6-1, 6-2
Round 4: defeated [9] Kiki Bertens (NED) 6-3, 6-3
Quarter-final: defeated [30] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 7-5, 6-3
Semi-final: defeated [4] Simona Halep (ROU) 7-6 (10-8), 6-5

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The stats that matter

  • This is Sofia Kenin’s first grand slam final, and Garbine Muguruza’s fourth. For both this is their first Australian Open final, which means we are guaranteed a first-time champion at Melbourne Park.
  • This is the third consecutive Australian Open women’s final to guarantee a new champion, after Caroline Wozniacki won in 2018 and Naomi Osaka triumphed last year. This is also the third consecutive Australian Open women’s final featuring only players born in the 1990s.
  • Garbine Muguruza is the first unseeded woman to reach the final at Melbourne Park since Justine Henin in 2010. She is aiming to become the first unseeded woman to win here since Serena Williams famously won in 2007 while ranked 81st in the world.
  • This is the second consecutive Australian Open women’s final not to feature a top-three seed. This is also the first women’s final since 1978 not to feature a top-four seed, and first since the introduction of computer rankings in 1973 not to feature a top-ten seed.
  • This is the first major final since the 2018 US Open (No.20 Osaka defeated No.17 Serena Williams) not to feature a top-ten seed.
  • Muguruza is aiming to become the first Spanish woman, and the second Spaniard overall after Rafael Nadal’s win in 2009, to win the Australian Open. She is the first Spanish woman to reach the final her since her coach, Conchita Martinez, in 1998.
  • Kenin is the first American other than the Williams sisters to reach an Australian Open final since Lindsay Davenport in 2005. She is also the fifth different American woman to reach a major final in the past decade (after the Williams sisters, Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens).
  • Kenin is aiming to become just the sixth American woman (after Jennifer Capriati, the Williams sisters, Davenport and Stephens) to win a major this century, and the fourth American woman (after Davenport, Capriati and Serena Williams) to salute Down Under.
  • Kenin is the third different opponent of Muguruza in a major final, after the Williams sisters.


Prediction

Garbine Muguruza in straight sets.

On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic advanced to his eighth Australian Open final, and 26th major final overall, by defeating Roger Federer in straight sets over the course of two hours.

He will now await the winner of tonight’s semi-final between Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev, after both men eliminated former champions Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka in four sets in their respective quarter-finals, thus guaranteeing a first-time Australian Open finalist born in the 1990s.

Zverev is aiming to become the first German man since Rainer Schuettler at the 2003 Australian Open to reach a major final, while Thiem is looking to reach his third major final after reaching a pair of finals at Roland Garros in the past two years (losing to Nadal each time).