Sofia Kenin takes down No. 1 Ash Barty to reach Australian Open final

Kenin takes down Barty to advance to Australian Open final (1:28)

American Sofia Kenin defeats No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in straight sets to advance to her first Australian Open final. (1:28)

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Sofia Kenin never flinched.

Not when she was twice a point from dropping the opening set of her first Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open. Not when she was twice a point from dropping the second set, either.

The American is into her first major final at age 21, having beaten the woman ranked No. 1, Ash Barty, to get there. Next Kenin will need to beat a former No. 1, Garbine Muguruza, to win the trophy.

Kenin saved a total of four set points to stop Barty's bid to give Australia a long-awaited singles champion at Melbourne Park, pulling of a 7-6 (6), 7-5 victory on a stiflingly hot Thursday.

"I was telling myself: 'I believe in myself. If I lose the set, I'm still going to come out and believe,'" said the 14th-seeded Kenin, who had never been past the fourth round at a major. "Yeah, I really did a great job with it. I didn't give up."

Muguruza fended off four set points in the opener of her semifinal and defeated No. 4 Simona Halep 7-6 (8), 7-5.

Barty -- who won the French Open in June, beating Kenin along the way -- was hardly at her best on Thursday, especially at the most crucial moments. Maybe she was burdened by the task of trying to become the first Australian woman since 1980 to get to the final of the country's Grand Slam.

"Unfortunately, couldn't quite scrap enough to get over the line," said Barty, who held her niece on her lap at her postmatch news conference. "Just didn't play the biggest points well enough to win."

Instead, Kenin is the first American other than a Williams sister to reach the final of the Australian Open since Lindsay Davenport in 1995. Kenin also is the first American woman to beat the No. 1 player at any major since Serena topped Venus at Wimbledon in 2002.

"She has the ability to adapt," Barty said. "She's extremely confident at the moment, as well."

Those inside the sport know. But Kenin has been overshadowed by some of the other American women making waves in recent years.

"I mean, yeah, I know people haven't really paid attention much to me in the past. I had to establish myself, and I have," Kenin said. "Of course, now I'm getting the attention, which I like it -- not going to lie."

Kenin, who was born in Russia and moved to Florida as a baby, burst onto the scene in 2019 by winning three singles titles, upsetting Serena Williams in the third round at Roland Garros and soaring from No. 52 to No. 12 in the rankings.

Kenin didn't face a seeded player in this tournament until Thursday, but she did eliminate 15-year-old American sensation Coco Gauff in the fourth round.

Barty and Kenin stepped out in Rod Laver Arena in the early afternoon under a cloudless sky and a vibrant sun. The temperature topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) in the first set, making it 20 to 25 (10 to 15) degrees hotter than it has been for much of a chillier-than-usual few weeks at Melbourne Park.

Barty braced herself by wearing an ice towel around her neck at changeovers.

In addition to making it uncomfortable for players and fans, the conditions caused balls to zip through the air and fly off rackets, rendering it that much harder to control shots. Add that to some jitters and neither woman was at her best in the opening set.

Barty's one-handed slice backhand was not as reliable as it normally is. Kenin's movement and groundstrokes seemed to lack their usual verve.

It took Kenin 43 minutes to register a forehand winner, and 11 of her initial 14 points resulted from unforced errors by Barty.

After one lost point, Kenin hit herself in the thigh. On the next, she flubbed a high volley and dropped her racket to the ground. Up in the stands, Kenin's father, Alexander, who also is her coach, put his hands on his head.

Hours later, he could smile as he looked back at the big win and ahead to what's next.

"The basic plan that we developed, we stuck to it, and it looked like it worked," he said.

Asked what he thinks it will be like to see his daughter in her first Grand Slam final, he replied: "Never been there, so I don't know. Let's see."

Barty had two chances to claim the first set but couldn't. The same thing happened in the second.

Kenin now will climb into the top 10 of the rankings. With one more win, she'll achieve something even more significant: the right to call herself a Grand Slam champion.

"She deserves that respect," Barty said, "and she deserves the recognition."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.