World No.14 Sofia Kenin, or Sonya, as people close to her call her, has been voted as “The Most Improved Player of the Year” and to celebrate the achievement the 21-year-old American shared on Instagram this lovely childhood photo of her playing tennis, making this a perfect occasion to add her to my Little Tennis Stars series and feature a few more early pics of the young WTA star that I’ve come across online over time.
Just look at this stance! And this gorgeous Adidas kit! I don’t know what Sonya’s current sponsor Fila thinks about her posting this, though.
Sonya was first introduced to tennis at the age of five, when she picked up her father Alexander’s racquet and started hitting tennis balls. Her talent was quickly recognized by Rick Macci, known for developing young tennis players in Broward County, who was impressed by her hand/eye coordination, concentration, form and foot work.
At the age of seven, Sonya started playing United States Tennis Association (USTA) tournaments, Girls’ 10 Singles, and in less than a year and a half she achieved a number one ranking in the State of Florida in the G10 Division.
As the bio on her official website states, the fact that Sonya excelled at such a young age gave her the opportunity to hit and interact with big tennis stars such as Kim Clijsters, Anna Kournikova, John McEnroe, Venus Williams and Jim Courier. Hence we have these adorable pics!
Just two years after turning pro in September 2017, Sonya climbed to No.12 in the WTA rankings, while she finished the 2019 season ranked No.14. This Moscow-born American player has already won three WTA singles titles (Hobart, Mallorca and Guangzhou) and two WTA doubles titles (Auckland with Eugenie Bouchard and Beijing with Bethanie Mattek-Sands).
Moreover, her résumé includes a victory over 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the third round of the 2019 French Open. To put that in perspective, Sonya was just four months old when Serena won her first WTA title and she had not yet celebrated her first birthday when Serena won her first Grand Slam at the 1999 US Open.
Kenin’s phenomenal 2019 season is definitely just the beginning. We’ll see a lot more from this young American tennis force.