Saturday features the women’s final at the Australian Open. Two-time Major champion Garbine Muguruza will face off against American Sofia Kenin, who is in her first career Major final. Who will win? Our writers are here to offer their thoughts on the match. Predicting are Nurein Ahmed, Jim Smith, Ryan Schick, Andrew Watson, and myself (Yesh Ginsburg).
Australian Open Women’s Final Prediction
Garbine Muguruza vs Sofia Kenin
This is quite possibly one of the least expected finals, but both players have merited their spots in the championship match. For Sofia Kenin, it’s no longer a case that she is the coming woman in tennis, but it is safe to say she has arrived on the big stage. She is only 21, but already a winner of three WTA titles. Kenin has been unfazed by media hype that her contemporaries have been getting; she has stormed through the draw, dropping just one set.
And if there was one player left in the tournament capable of stopping the Kenin trail, it would be Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard’s off-season trip to Tanzania has sparked a major renaissance in her career. Not only did she ascend to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, but she could be returning to the summit of women’s tennis. Being unseeded for the first time in six years at a Grand Slam, the 26-year-old wasn’t considered a contender to lift the crown this fortnight. But she has fought the toughest battles, knocking out three top-10 seeds along the way.
Experience is key here and Muguruza has an enormous edge in that department. However, Kenin is no slouch when it comes to baseline exchanges, and her ability to extend the Spaniard–who is not the cleanest striker on the run–could be a very effective strategy. Assuming the young American fights off the early nerves, she should outlast the two-time Major champion.
Prediction: Kenin in 2
What an opportunity for both women this is. Muguruza had been in the wilderness, but the Spaniard has made a superb start to 2020, winning 11 of her first 12 matches, against some formidable opposition. Kenin, meanwhile, has added her name to the list of highly promising young guns. Her tactical awareness and fighting spirit is allied to increasing power off the ground. But will she be able to defend against Muguruza’s superb linear shots? I’m not so sure. Muguruza, at her best, excels at taking the ball on the rise and that ability to deny Kenin time might just prove the difference.
Prediction: Muguruza in 3
The fairly surprising final sees two players outside the top 10. Both players deserve every bit of the success they have had, dropping only three sets combined on the way to the final. Muguruza has not dropped a set since the second round, and Kenin’s only lost set was in a close tiebreaker to Coco Gauff. Muguruza is gunning to win her third different Major, and holds a 2-1 record in Slam finals, showing no signs of nerves on the biggest stage. Kenin had never even made a Major quarterfinal until here at Melbourne, but fought past nerves and a one-sided home crowd to defeat the top player in the world Ash Barty in straight sets in the semifinal. Muguruza has had an even more impressive run, defeating three top 10 players en route to the final.
The Spaniard surprised many after a tough two-year span, seeing her fall from #2 in the world at the end of 2017 to #36 at the end of 2019. Muguruza has found her old form, and Simona Halep had no answers for her massive groundstrokes. Kenin has shown to be completely comfortable in these situations, but she did not play her best in the semis, and Muguruza will continue her dominance to her third Grand Slam title.
Prediction: Muguruza in 3
With both outsiders winning their semifinals, this Australian Open women’s final is one that few would have predicted. Nevertheless, both players have shown an excellent level of form throughout the fortnight and very much deserve their places here. Kenin had the advantage in their previous meeting. It was only a few months ago on a hard court, so it is relevant for this encounter. Muguruza has the Grand Slam winning experience that counts for a lot as well, though.
Over the course of the tournament, both ladies have put up exceptional figures. Kenin has been very difficult to break, holding serve 86% of the time, but Muguruza has been even better at breaking her opposition, doing so 47% of return games. This match should be very close, it doesn’t seem as though Kenin has the type of personality to crumble under pressure. She may well just edge this final by sticking to her solid game throughout the match. Expect an American triumph here in a tough match.
Prediction: Kenin in 3
How much do I trust Garbine Muguruza? That is the question of this match. Kenin is a tremendous retriever with great rally-punching ability, and her serve–while underrated and somewhat underpowered–has been very effective this tournament. Still, it is very clear that Kenin’s game can’t quite keep the most powerful hitters in the world at bay. Against Ash Barty, who doesn’t have near the groundstrokes that Muguruza has, Kenin was never able to turn a rally in her favor once the Aussie got on the front foot.
Of course, Kenin won some of those rallies anyway. Making an opponent always play one extra ball is always the right move, and Kenin excels at doing just that. The Spaniard will take control of most rallies; this match will be on her racket. Usually, that’s the place you want to be, especially in a Grand Slam final.
So, this brings me back to my initial question. How much do I trust Garbine Muguruza? Will she be able to hit clean baseline shots, point after point, for three full sets? Because that’s what she’ll need to do to beat Kenin. Kenin won’t go for too much and won’t crack under pressure. This will be Muguruza’s match to win or lose. Do I trust her to win it?
Right now, I don’t.
Prediction: Kenin in 3
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