American Sofia Kenin continues to impress at Australian Open, gains semifinal berth against Ash Barty

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Sofia Kenin's breakthrough run in a Grand Slam tournament has continued to the semifinals at the Australian Open.

The 21-year-old American beat No. 78-ranked Ons Jabeur 6-4, 6-4 in the first match Tuesday at Rod Laver Arena. Both were playing in the quarterfinals at a major for the first time.

As great as her story has been in this tournament, the semifinals will create a whole new challenge for Kenin. Top-ranked Ash Barty kept alive her chances of being the first Australian to win her national championship in 42 years, defeating two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 7-6 (6), 6-2, setting up a clash with Kenin.

"I'm in the semis," Kenin said. "Anyone I play, they're playing really well."

The same can be said for Kenin, who was born in Moscow but moved to the United States as a baby and grew up in Florida. She has been as efficient as she's been effective in the Australian Open, and has built off last year's run here, which ended in the second round, losing to Simona Halep. Her previous best run at a Grand Slam tournament was to the fourth round at the French Open last year.

She finished the year ranked 14th, and she could match No. 1 Barty in one category: They were tied for most hard-court wins on the women's tour last year with 38 each.

Kenin's tournament here this year has included a comeback win in the third round against 15-year-old Coco Gauff, when she made only nine unforced errors across the second and third sets. And in the second set against Jabeur, she saved three break points in a long sixth game, then broke serve in the seventh game to set up the win.

"It was a tough moment," Kenin said. "I didn't know it was 10 minutes, [but] it was pretty long, the game. After that, I got my momentum."

Jabeur, a 25-year-old Tunisian, was the first Arab woman to make it to the last eight at a major.

"Ï think I proved that I can be in the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam, even if I have a lot of things to improve probably physically and mentally," she said. "But I'm happy that I pushed through a lot of things. I proved to myself that I could do a lot of great things."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.