MELBOURNE, Australia -- When Sofia Kenin smashed a ball into the net to give Garbine Muguruza three break-point opportunities in the fifth game of the third set, it looked as though it was all about to unravel for the 21-year-old American.
Kenin had rallied from a set down to draw level with Muguruza in the Australian Open final, her confidence, swagger and ball speed increasing with each passing point. But a couple of unforced errors when serving at 2-2 in the deciding set saw her fall behind. All of a sudden, Kenin was down 0-40, the pendulum swinging back toward the two-time Grand Slam winner. Was this the end of Kenin's dream run Down Under?
But with chants of "C'mon, Garbine" echoing around a capacity Rod Laver Arena, Kenin took a deep breath and composed herself. She then stepped back up to the baseline and produced two of the most magical minutes of tennis ever witnessed at Melbourne Park.
Here's what happened:
0-40: Kenin hits her first serve and immediately has Muguruza scrambling across the baseline. After a 10-shot rally, Kenin fires a backhand crosscourt that Muguruza is able to retrieve before Kenin hits a backhand winner down the line. One break point saved.
15-40: A serve out wide opens up the court for Kenin, and once again Muguruza is on the defensive. Kenin shows off her shot variety and ends the point with another backhand winner down the line. Muguruza can only stand and admire it. Two break points saved.
30-40: Kenin staves off a third break point with a clinical forehand winner that hits the line after the pair had engaged in an 11-shot rally.
40-40: At deuce, Kenin produces just her second ace of the match with a crafty serve out wide. Muguruza challenges it but is unsuccessful.
Advantage Kenin: Muguruza takes an aggressive approach early in the point, and this time it's Kenin who is retreating behind the baseline. Muguruza comes into the net, but Kenin reacts, playing a forehand crosscourt passing shot to win the game.
The match might not have been completed until Muguruza sent down her eighth double fault of the night, but you sensed the Spaniard's spirit had been shattered with Kenin's ability to strike five consecutive winners and complete a remarkable escape.
"It was the best five shots of my life. I was on fire," Kenin said later. "That game's going to be with me forever. That's the game I feel like things changed. After that, I was ready to take the trophy."
With the crowd in delirium at what they had just witnessed, and Kenin just three games away from clinching the title, Muguruza's head dropped as she trudged back toward her chair.
"It was a very important moment in the match," Muguruza said. "She found very, very good shots, came out with winners and [was] just hitting the ball very good."
At the other end of the court, Kenin was bursting with confidence. She gritted her teeth, threw a ball up high in delight and gave a fierce stare toward her player's box that suggested "I've got this." After an hour and 49 minutes of a seesawing final, there was now no doubt which woman was winning.
Kenin reeled off the next three games in 14 minutes to seal a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 win and become the youngest Australian Open champion since Maria Sharapova in 2008. She also became just the fourth woman Grand Slam winner in Open era history to come from a set down in the final.
For Kenin, the fifth game of the final set may have only been a hold of serve, but it was the hold that won her the title. It was simply flawless tennis. The type of tennis that has every person in the stadium shaking their head in disbelief. It was tennis of an all-time great, not someone who prior to this tournament had only once made the second week of a major.