It’s been a wild ride through the 2020 women’s Australian Open, but now the final is set. It is not a matchup that anyone expected before the tournament began, as so many of the favorites have fallen along the way. But even though it is surprising in an immediate sense, people who follow tennis know these are two accomplished players who aren’t making fluky runs. These players have the talent to be legitimate major championship contenders, and now they will play for the first women’s major championship of 2020. Let’s dive into the matchup.
Garbine Muguruza vs. Sofia Kenin
The two semifinal matches that produced Muguruza and Kenin as winners were noticeably similar. In both cases, both winners scored set points in the first set. In the second set of both matches, Muguruza and Kenin broke their opponents’ serves when their opponents were serving for the second set. These matches were extremely close in both sets. They very easily could have been won by Ashleigh Barty (against Kenin) and Simona Halep (against Muguruza). Yet they went the other way, with Kenin saving two set points in both sets, and Muguruza saving two set points in the first set. They have both displayed great toughness in this tournament to reach the final.
How Kenin Got Here
Kenin lost the first set of her fourth-round match against Coco Gauff but rallied to win in three sets. That’s her only set loss so far, though. Many people felt that maybe she was a bit untested heading into the semis as she didn’t have to play a seeded opponent up until her matchup with Barty. Sure, Gauff is a challenging unseeded player, but she’s still unseeded — along with everyone else that Kenin had to face.
To Kenin’s credit, she really didn’t struggle through any of her matches. Other than trailing Gauff early, she disposed of everyone quickly. Kenin even took care of business in straight sets against Barty, who was the favorite to win the event entering the final four.
How Muguruza Got Here
Muguruza lost the first set of the tournament to Shelby Rogers in the first round, but she bounced back to win in three sets. She also lost a set to Alja Tomljanovic in the second round but regrouped to win the third set and advance. Since then, though, she has not lost a set. This has been a resurgence of sorts, reminding tennis observers that while she isn’t ranked in the top 10 and hasn’t been a highly-ranked player for a few years, she does have top-level talent.
Many are attributing Muguruza’s rise to the fact that she changed coaches and brought back a former co-coach, Conchita Martinez. Sam Sumyk was Muguruza’s full-time coach a few years ago, but in 2017 at Wimbledon, when Muguruza won her most recent major championship (her second; she won at Roland Garros in 2016), Martinez and Sumyk were both parts of her team. Now, though, it’s only Martinez, and the partnership seems to be flourishing. The player has found the mentor and guide she needed to become her best self once again. Muguruza’s talent has always been enormous and dazzling. Being tough and resilient is the true challenge for her, and in Australia, she has regained her winning edge.
Kenin is just as tough as Muguruza. She handles pressure very well at age 21. She played a close quarterfinal against Ons Jabeur and won all the important points. She won that quarterfinal match after the three-set win versus Gauff in the fourth round, and that quarterfinal win over Jabeur carried Kenin into the semifinals when she outfoxed Barty on several critical points.
Muguruza is the better, more talented player, but if Kenin is able to get these sets into a 5-5 situation or a tiebreaker where anything can happen, and it comes down to one or two points, she might have the edge. The scoreline is likely to decide the match. If it’s a 7-6, 6-7, 7-5 match, that bodes well for Kenin. Muguruza might win one tiebreaker, but she would probably need to decisively beat Kenin in at least one set to win, maybe 7-6, 6-3. That latter prediction makes the most sense for this match.