Sofia Kenin had simply crushed Ashleigh Barty, the world No. 1, to succeed in the ultimate on the Australian Open final January. Nonetheless in her tennis garments and seated on a bench within the locker room subsequent to her good friend and doubles associate, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Kenin glanced at her telephone and put her arms to her mouth.
“Andy Roddick simply tweeted. Oh my God, Oh my God,” Kenin stated as she learn aloud the previous world No. 1’s message. “‘This woman has develop into the products,’” Roddick wrote, urging her to win the title.
“I’ll,” Kenin yelled into her telephone. Then she cried.
Kenin, 22, met Roddick when she was a 7-year-old Florida phenomenon enjoying exhibition matches with the previous world No. 1s Jim Courier and Venus and Serena Williams. She instructed a reporter that she knew the way to return Roddick’s 150-plus m.p.h. serve by split-stepping and hitting with a brief backswing.
Tears have develop into Kenin’s mantra. She cried from nerves earlier than each match throughout final 12 months’s Australian Open after which sobbed with pleasure after she beat Garbiñe Muguruza to win her first main title.
She fought again tears of frustration in the course of her French Open final-round loss to Iga Swiatek after which allow them to stream as she sat courtside through the trophy presentation.
Kenin entered final 12 months’s Australian Open ranked exterior the highest 10. Helped by a potent backhand down the road, a well-disguised drop shot and an unwavering will to win, she ended the Covid-truncated season ranked No. 4 and was named the WTA Participant of the 12 months.
The next dialog has been edited and condensed.
What’s with all of the tears?
I don’t know. I attempt to deal with it. I can’t go on the courtroom crying as a result of then it’s a giant benefit for my opponent, so I’ve to wipe my tears, have a superb warm-up, really feel the ball after which begin grooving within the sport. That’s once I overlook I used to be crying and simply give attention to the factors.
Do you cry earlier than each match?
I did in Australia final 12 months. I wasn’t doing it on objective, it was simply occurring. After which, I’m superstitious so I used to be like, I bought to cry. I’m not a superb actress.
In final 12 months’s remaining, you have been at 2-2 within the third set, down 0-40 in your serve, and also you hit 5 straight winners. How did you try this?
Yeah, yeah, I do know these factors. I simply watched them on TV once more, and I bought a little bit emotional. These have been actually clutch factors, most likely the perfect factors of my life.
Novak Djokovic, your fellow Australian Open defending champion, grew to become an inspiration for you final 12 months. How did he assist?
I used to be watching his match, and I messaged him on Instagram. I hoped he would win so I might have an excuse to congratulate him. Then he was on the follow courtroom subsequent to me the day earlier than the ultimate, and he got here up and gave me some recommendation. He simply instructed me to benefit from the second and go away all of it on the market. I feel I’m going to ask him the way to deal with the stress of being a defending champion. He’s bought plenty of expertise with that.
Not lengthy after you gained in Australia, the tour was shut down for 5 months due to the pandemic. Did that make you offended?
It hit me exhausting as a result of it was speculated to be the perfect factor that ever occurred. Three months of practising and the whole lot canceled.
I wasn’t in a melancholy, however I used to be actually down. I didn’t need to be on the courtroom. However once we began once more, I used to be tremendous excited to exit and compete, despite the fact that it was actually unlucky that there have been no followers.
Heading into Melbourne, what are you most enthusiastic about, and what are you most afraid of?
I’m undoubtedly completely happy that I get to expertise being a defending champion. That’s fairly particular. Then, I’m most afraid to lose and lose early.
How are you totally different from that wide-eyed 7-year-old who wished to return Roddick’s serve?
Effectively, I gained a Slam, and I bought to the ultimate of one other one. In order that’s a giant distinction.