American 14th seed Sofia Kenin says she has “butterflies” at the prospect of playing in her first Grand Slam final against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza at the Australian Open.
The pair meet in Melbourne at 08:30 GMT on Saturday.
“I’ve pictured so many times being in the final. I’ve always dreamed about it,” Kenin, 21, said.
Unseeded Muguruza, who won the 2016 French Open and Wimbledon in 2017, is bidding for her third Grand Slam title.
After also losing at All England Club in 2015, the 26-year-old will compete in her fourth major final.
“I’ll take into consideration my previous experiences, but it doesn’t guarantee anything,” the world number 32 said.
Child prodigy Kenin one step from fulfilling dream
Kenin, who was born in Russia but moved to the United States when she was a few months old, is the first American to reach the Australian Open final aside from the Williams sisters since Lindsay Davenport in 2005.
She was a child prodigy in the States, making numerous television appearances and hitting with Grand Slam champions like John McEnroe, Kim Clijsters and Venus Williams when she was young and going on to reach the 2015 US Open girls final.
She won the WTA award for the most improved player in 2019 after winning three titles and climbing more than 40 places in the world rankings.
Now she is close to something even bigger.
Kenin reached the final after ending world number one Ashleigh Barty’s hopes of becoming the first Australian champion in Melbourne since 1978.
“First I’m just going to be enjoying the moment,” she said. “You don’t experience this so often. This is so exciting. Literally butterflies.
“I’m just going to also focus on what I need to do, focus on my game. I got here, it’s time to shine, do the best I can. Hopefully I can do something more special.”
‘The racquet has to speak out there’ – Muguruza hopes experience will prove key
Muguruza is bidding to become only the third unseeded woman to win the Australian Open, after home player Chris O’Neil in 1978 and American great Serena Williams in 2007.
The Venezuelan-born Spaniard slipped to 36th in the world at the end of last year, a little over two years after she was ranked number one.
But she has looked close to her best in Melbourne, having reunited with former coach Conchita Martinez – the 1994 Wimbledon champion – at the start of the season.
The experience of winning the sport’s biggest prizes is something which Muguruza hopes she can use to her advantage
“It’s something that not a lot of players can feel it. But at the end the racquet has to speak out there,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter how many Grand Slams you have. It’s a tennis match.
“Even if you have 15 Grand Slams, you go out there and you have somebody that can beat you.”
Muguruza has reached the Melbourne final by beating four seeded players, including three ranked in the world’s top 10.
Victories over Ukrainian fifth seed Elina Svitolina and Dutch ninth seed Kiki Bertens earlier in the tournament marked her out as a potential champion at Melbourne Park.
And she moved within another win of achieving that with a gutsy victory over Romanian fourth seed Simona Halep.
“I think she has the right attitude at the moment. She’s very focused,” said Martinez, who worked with Muguruza when she won Wimbledon.
“I have seen this look before when she’s been playing really good tennis.
“I like how she’s doing everything right to put herself in a good situation, to do well, to play well.”