Last year’s Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin was knocked out of the tournament’s 2021 edition after a quick 6-3 6-2 loss to Estonian world No.65 Kaia Kanepi in the second round.
After being close to tears multiple times during her tight first-round victory, the fourth-seeded Kenin acknowledged that she needed to get the grip of her nerves if she wanted to be successful this fortnight. However, the pressure of being a defending Grand Slam champion for the first time was too much for the American at this moment and it took its toll in the second round.
The 35-year-old Kanepi dominated the 64-minute encounter on Margaret Court Arena by saving 7/7 break points and recording 22 winners to her opponent’s 10. Serve was one of Kanepi’s strengths on Thursday, as she hit 10 aces.
The 2021 season started extremely well for Kanepi, as the big-hitting veteran reached her first WTA final since 2013 at last week’s Australian Open warm-up tournament called the Gippsland Trophy. En route to that final she ended Aryna Sabalenka’s 15-match winning streak.
The 22-year-old Kenin was crying at the post-match press conference, saying how she couldn’t find her rhythm and could’t execute her shots because of nervousness. The outside pressure was too strong, she felt like all eyes were on her to defend her title in Melbourne.
Sofia’s strength is probably her metal toughness and never give up attitude, but personally thats not enough. Sofia just doesnt have that special weapons in her repertoires. Her ground stroke is not penetrating, she doesnt hit fast serve, her athleticism/footwork is so so. It might work sometimes, but she needs to develop that 1 strength in her tennis shots.
Like Serena with her serve, Simona with her defense and clean shots, Garbine/Naomi /Maria’s hard hitting shots.
I see a number of problems with this situation. I think she tried to change her game after winning the AO last year. She went from playing like Halep to trying to play like keys. She is a counter puncher at heart who can have moments of aggression when given the chance. I think she needs to go back to her natural game. The other issue is that I think she has put way too much pressure on herself. I think her father is also to blame for this. My advice would be. Fire your father and get a proper coach and your father can act as parent. Hire a sports psychologist so you stop getting stressed and crying about tennis all the time. Get some hobbies and interests away from tennis. Adjust your first-serve return position, and actually enjoy playing tennis again.
Yes, Andy, maybe Kenin should talk to Iga Swiatek’s sports psychologist. Definitely get rid of her father as a coach.