Reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin says she is grateful to have the chance to defend her title at Melbourne Park, shaking off the controversy surrounding athletes in hotel quarantine.
The 22-year-old world No.4 echoed Serena Williams in shrugging off the strict quarantine measure that greeted players when they arrived, but added she had sympathy for the 72 players who had been unable leave their rooms at all.
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Kenin is one of the majority of players who have been able to leave hotel quarantine to train for five hours each day.
“I can somewhat imagine what the players in lockdown are going through, of course it’s really tough, I do feel for them,” Kenin said.
“Obviously it’s very strict restrictions, but I knew, other players knew that coming to Australia it was going to be very strict.
“I’m very grateful to Tennis Australia, grateful to the Australian government for letting us come here, people who live here can’t even come to see their families, so having us come here for the Australian Open is really special, and we’re just super grateful.”
Kenin won the 2020 Australian Open with an impressive comeback win over Spain’s Garbine Muguruza.
The American star said Melbourne held a lot of happy memories for her, and she was keen to once again explore the city where she claimed her first Grand Slam.
“Obviously it brings back a lot of great memories, so I’m super excited to be here even with these tough conditions, I’m getting through it, I’m not complaining at all,” Kenin said.
“(Quarantine) has been tough, not easy, but everyone is going through this and it’s something we have to go through to be free after the two weeks to explore the beautiful city and have some great action ahead of us.”
Kenin looks up to Serena Williams ahead of Australian Open
World No.4 Kenin ranks seven places higher on the WTA leaderboard than childhood idol Williams heading into the season opening Grand Slam.
After watching Williams’ play throughout much of her childhood, Kenin said the chance to play alongside her at the Fed Cup was an eye-opening experience.
“She really is a nice person, we were at Fed Cup together, I obviously did not think we would be able to talk, I feel like she’s very by herself, which I obviously can understand and I can see why a lot of top players and pros are staying away from everyone, staying with their teams, but yeah, she really is a down to earth woman.
“I like her and respect her a lot, it’s special to be ahead (in the rankings) but I still respect her very much.
“She’s had great success and she really inspired me and I’m sure a lot of great young athletes who want to be just like her.
“She’s Serena for a reason - and I still can’t get her serve.”
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