MELBOURNE (Reuters) – An anxious Sofia Kenin was in tears before launching her title defence at the Australian Open on Tuesday and again after completing an unconvincing 7-5 6-4 win over local wildcard Maddison Inglis.
Fourth seed Kenin, who claimed her maiden Grand Slam at Melbourne Park last year in a major surprise, found the going tough against the world number 133 Australian on a glorious morning at Rod Laver Arena.
The Russia-born American was broken twice in the first set and slumped to an early 3-1 deficit before recovering. She later double-faulted on match-point before closing it out.
Kenin has always worn her heart on her sleeve and was candid about her emotions, saying she needed to get a grip of them if she hoped to go far in her title defence.
“Yeah, emotions, some tears and stuff. I felt a little bit (of) pressure,” the 22-year-old said of her lead-in to the match.
“Obviously I was nervous … I obviously am tight. I wasn’t there 100% mentally.”
Kenin said that while she gets nervous before all of her matches, the anxiety level was cranked up in Melbourne as she bids to defend her title.
“I have to try to put my emotions aside for a match,” she added.
“I have to somehow get better at that if I want to do well here.”
Even after thumping down a backhand drive-volley to seal the win on a third match point, Kenin said she had to stop herself from weeping on court.
“Eyes were a little bit wet during the match,” she said.
“I try to cool off, put that aside … As the match went, luckily it was fine. Towards the end, you could see I got a little bit emotional as well.
“Standing at the net, ‘Okay, don’t cry’. My eyes were wet, obviously.”
She will next play Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, who beat her in three sets in Rome in 2018, their only career meeting.
Just seeing that Kanepi was winning her first round match against Anastasija Sevastova was enough to tug at Kenin’s emotions again.
“After my match, I came off court, and I looked that she was winning,” she said.
“Maybe (I) kind of broke down a little bit because obviously I remember I lost to her.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; editing by Peter Rutherford)