Kenin's grand slam dream just beginning

Ambitious Sofia Kenin is the youngest player to win the Australian Open since Maria Sharapova.
Ambitious Sofia Kenin is the youngest player to win the Australian Open since Maria Sharapova.

US prodigy Sofia Kenin plans on being tennis' next dominant force after gate-crashing the grand slam stage with her spectacular Australian Open triumph.

But it may be easier said than done as the women's game enjoys a refreshing generational change amid an unprecedented depth of talent jostling for top spots.

Up to a dozen challengers have emerged as Serena Williams' long-term heir apparent, with the ambitious Kenin merely the latest to announce her arrival as a grand slam force.

Eleven different women have won the past 13 slams, with the average age of the champion just 22 years and nine months - a far cry from the decade-long domination of Williams and fellow veterans Maria Sharapova, Li Na and Angelique Kerber.

The average age of the world's top 10, sans Serena, is now only 23 years and 11 months.

Gone, seemingly, are the days of thirty-somethings ruling supreme.

But Kenin's challenge - just as it is world No.1 Ashleigh Barty's, teenage US Open champion Bianca Andreescu and 22-year-old dual slam winner Naomi Osaka's - is to burst from the hungry pack and parlay their undoubted potential into multiple majors.

Williams, 38, her sister Venus, who turns 40 this year, Sharapova and fellow 32-year-old Kerber are the only active players who boast three slams or more.

Kenin wants to be the next.

"I would love to. That would be amazing. Right now, I mean, I still can't believe what just happened. I need to somehow come down and just let it all sink in," the 21-year-old said after breaking through with a dogged 4-6 6-2 6-2 comeback win over former world No.1 Garbine Muguruza in Saturday night's final at Melbourne Park.

"Hopefully I can just keep going, build up on everything that I've done these past two weeks, just move forward."

Earmarked for greatness since she was five, Kenin, a winner of a tour-best 38 hard-court matches in 2019, felt destined to win the Open before a ball was hit.

"At home I was envisioning each round, how I would play and how it would be emotional and everything," said the new US No.1 and youngest Open champion since Sharapova in 2008.

"My dream has officially come true. I cannot even describe this feeling. It is so emotional."

Like Sharapova, the Moscow-born American was inspired by Russian trailblazer Anna Kournikova and has no doubt her heritage helped instil her hunger and drive.

"I've looked up to Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournikova," she said.

"I followed their matches when I was little. I feel like I got the feisty. I saw what it's like. She won a grand slam at 17, Maria, which I remember watching it on TV.

"That definitely helped me. I have part of Russian stuff inside me, fight and fierce that I have. Trying just to be confident, do what I do best.

"And thank you to my parents for giving me the American dream."

Australian Associated Press