WTA World No.36 Sofia Kenin is one of tennis’ rising stars and the 20-year-old wants to go all the way to the top.
A former child prodigy, who played exhibition matches against the likes of Jim Courier and John McEnroe, the Moscow-born American sealed her first career title in Hobart earlier this year when she defeated Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the final.
Since, she has reached the final of Acapulco and has seen her ranking rise from No.56 at the start of the year but she does not want to see her progress stop there.
“I really want to become No.1 in the world. I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am. The next goal is to win a Grand Slam,” she said.
A meeting with Maria Sharapova at the US Open of 2017 proved a turning point in her career, despite a 7-5, 6-2 defeat.
“I had straight As, I was a good student. I had to decide whether I was going to go to college or go professional,” she said, reflecting back to that time. “I had a good run at the US Open when I played Maria in the third round and that made the decision much easier! I knew I wanted to go professional.”
And while Kenin has always been blessed with a ferociously competitive attitude, that encounter with the former WTA World No.1 cemented her belief that she needed to maintain this mentality.
“I was the underdog, I was always the smallest,” Kenin said, thinking back to her days as a junior and the belligerent mindset that she required to succeed.
“She’s a great example for me, the way she fights on court.
“I’m very focused, I’m very aggressive. I’m going to stay out there for hours if I have to – I’m not going to let you just beat me.
“There have been so many matches in my career that I don’t know how I’ve pulled off. The fact that I never gave up got me through.”
It is not just in competitive play that she shows such a fiery spirit.
“You got to practice the way you want to play your match,” she said. “I’m hard of myself, which is good. I’m focused to reach my goal, which is to become the No.1.”
Undoubtedly the greatest influence on her game, though, has been her family, who brought her from Moscow to Florida to concentrate on her tennis.
“It’s amazing. I’m really thankful for that,” she admitted.
Father Alexander is still her coach and Kenin believes that he has not got an easy job but is grateful for his unwavering support.
“Sometimes I think it’s harder to watch the matches than play,” she said. “You have to have someone like that you can rely on when you’re falling down.”
Kenin, meanwhile, shows no sign of faltering with her climb up the ranking and with a can-do attitude as impressive as anyone on the WTA Tour, that maiden major title may not be too far away.