Emotional Kenin admits mental pressure before first Slam defence

·2-min read
Defending Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin says she must keep her emotions in check

Sofia Kenin admitted Saturday she needs to keep her emotions in check as she prepares to defend her Australian Open title, after leaving the court in tears when knocked out of a warm-up event.

The world number four is back at the scene of her stunning Grand Slam breakthrough, where she beat Garbine Muguruza in three sets last year to win her first major title.

Kenin, however, has endured a difficult return to Melbourne Park with a straight-sets thrashing Friday by Muguruza in the quarter-finals of the Yarra Valley Classic, as she battles a left groin injury.

The 22-year-old earlier in the week admitted to feeling "very nervous" and she was in tears following her 6-2, 6-2 loss to the Spaniard.

"Yesterday was maybe not the best way I wanted to handle my emotions," she said.

"I obviously did not mentally prepare so well. Obviously it affected me a little bit.

"I got to get ready for the Australian Open and have to figure out how to handle my emotions there."

Kenin said it had been challenging coping with the pressure of defending a Grand Slam title for the first time.

"Just preparing physically and mentally, knowing that I got to be physically there in my game, my movement, everything," she said.

"Mentally, I got to handle my emotions and understand whoever I'm going to play, they're obviously going to play with no pressure, which is expected.

"They're probably going to play better against me, so I have to somehow try to handle my nerves and try to stick to my game plan. Obviously I would love to defend it."

Kenin's title defence starts against wildcard Maddison Inglis of Australia, but she has allowed herself to look deeper into the draw at other potential opponents.

"I obviously look quite far ahead... I think till four rounds," she said. "I'm not trying to be mean or anything, but see who I'd rather play or not play."

And after a year of playing in mostly empty stadiums due to the pandemic, she said she was "super-excited" to have fans back in Melbourne, where up to 30,000 a day will be allowed.

"I've obviously missed the fans," she said. "It was a big toll on me not playing with them. Knowing that they're going to be here is just really special."

tl/mp/th