Fourteen years later she now has that first grand slam title and a $4.12 million winner’s cheque after beating Garbine Muguruza in three sets 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.
“I just want to say, you know, my dream has officially come true. I cannot even describe this feeling. It is so emotional and I have worked so hard. I am just so grateful to be standing here. Dreams come true, so if you have a dream go for it and it will come true,” Kenin said.
Kenin set about the task against Muguruza with a confidence that she felt she had nothing to lose.
Muguruza played with the appearance of someone whispering to themselves they had everything to lose.
Reflecting Kenin’s belief and her dogged defiance she played her best when she was fighting to defend break points, just as she did against Ash Barty. She defended none better than in the fifth game of the third set when she was down 0-40 and confronting a match-defining break of serve.
In the most critical period of the match she saved that game and went on to break Muguruza’s serve in the next game when Muguruza gifted her the game with a double-fault on break point. That seemed to speak to Muguruza’s mindset as much as Kenin’s.
“It was a very important moment of the match. I think she found very, very good shots during the match. Especially in the important moments, I think she came out with winners and just hitting the ball very good,” Muguruza said.
Then, again, when serving to defend match and championship point Muguruza double-faulted.
To win Kenin had to beat Muguruza and harness her own self-belief and not lose to her impetuousness and emotion.
To win Muguruza had to beat Kenin and herself. Muguruza had won two grand slam titles before a stunning fall in form. Last year she was playing tennis almost unrecognisable from when she had won a French Open and Wimbledon. She was playing tennis like Woody Allen said of a cellist – he was trying to blow into the instrument.
To re-gather and work out how to reach the peak of her sport again she climbed an actual peak – Kilimanjaro. Saturday night presented the neat moment of sporting redemption.
It began well for her but then after winning the first set Muguruza frayed and Kenin consolidated.
Unseeded after her staggering form fall, Muguruza had to beat three top ten seeded players to get to the final. She won each in straight sets. She beat more top ten players in this tournament than she did all of last year.
Indeed after the French Open last year she only played another eight matches in seven months. She won one.
The women’s final against Kenin was her seventh match in this tournament alone. She also came into the Open with a bout of ‘flu’, so there was that.
Given that lead-in the physical toll on her began to show. She lost the second set and sought medical help at the break.
She returned to court but looked too distracted about her body and wanted to shorten the points.
In contrast Kenin was bouncey and energetic, pumped and determined, ready to win.
Besides why wouldn’t she? She knew what she had to do. She’s known since she was seven.
Michael Gleeson is an award-winning senior sports writer specialising in AFL and athletics.