Australia — Russian-born Alex Kenin used to drive New York taxis and spoke English so poorly that he didn’t know where he was supposed to be going. Now, he is coaching a grand-slam champion.
Alex Kenin arrived in New York from what was then the Soviet Union in 1987 with his wife, Lena. The pair only had a few hundred dollars, searching for the “American Dream”.
Moreover, he drove a taxi by night and went to English and computer school during the day.
“I had to work at night, go to school in the morning. Driving in New York, speaking English on the (taxi) radio. I had no idea what they were saying,” Alex said. “But it’s amazing the things you do to survive. (Sofia) knows about that and I think it made her tough.”
According to him, Sofia obviously had talent from a very young age. However, they remained outsiders and making it on the tennis circuit was never easy.
“People overlooked me. I wasn’t the tallest kid when I was little. People said, ‘What are you talking about? She’s so small. What are you doing? This is a joke,'” Sofia said. “We didn’t have the best things said about me but my dad’s been there and he believed in me, didn’t listen to that. He could have easily said, okay, and I could have done something (else).”
The father-of-one allegedly introduced his daughter, Sofia, to tennis. Despite having zero knowledge of the said sport, he brought her up around the game and pushed her to achieve the extraordinary. Eventually, Sofia was crowned by her victory at the Australian Open on Saturday.
Moreover, Sofia represented America at the 2014 Youth Olympics. She also made her Grand Slam debut as a wildcard at the 2015 US Open and broke into the top 100 in March 2018.
According to Sofia, her father simply learned the nature of the game just by observing those around him.
“He’s seen how all the other coaches have been coaching their players, but he knows everything,” Sofia said. “He knows what he’s talking about, he really knows it and he comes up with the right plans, the right strategies.”
Indeed, the father-and-daughter achievement is remarkable. Even teenage prodigy Coco Gauff, world number one Ashleigh Barty and, in the final, two-time Major-winner Muguruza all fell unsuccessful against Sofia.
Furthermore, Alex joins a long list of tennis dads who produced champions, including Richard Williams, Mike Agassi, and Yuri Sharapova.
However, breaking the stigma of the reported taboos when dads coach their kids, Alex and Sofia remain affectionate.
“I really have him to thank. We’ve been dreaming about this — it’s a dream come true for us,” Sofia said. “He’s told me a lot of positive things. He knows exactly what he’s talking about.”
During Saturday’s final, Alex could barely watch as Sofia closed on the win. But as she spoke her winner’s speech, the proud father beamed it live worldwide on his mobile phone.
“He’s just proud of me. I’m a tough cookie, but I did it,” Sofia said.