“Couldn’t Really Handle the Pressure”: Tearful Sofia Kenin Reflects on Shocking Australian Open 2021 Exit

Published 02/11/2021, 1:09 AM EST
Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 11, 2021 Sofia Kenin of the U.S. in action during her second round match against Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi REUTERS/Loren Elliott


Defending women’s champion, Sofia Kenin, couldn’t hold back her tears at the press conference after crashing out of the Australian Open in the second round on Thursday.

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The current World Number 4 did little justice to her ranking as 65th-ranked Estonian Kaia Kanepi literally overwhelmed her on a sizzling afternoon at Melbourne Park.

Defending Champion Sofia Kenin crashed out after losing to Kaia Kanepi

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The American fell behind early in the contest and couldn’t catch up with the marauding Estonian who eventually ran out 6-3, 6-2 winner in the second-round fixture.

Bracing for a difficult face-to-face with reporters after her shocking exit, Kenin teared up, saying that the pressure of being the defending champion weighed heavy on her and she eventually wilted under it.

 

She said she has to find a way to rise from this shattering loss at the Australian Open and return to the level she played at last year.

“I know I couldn’t really handle the pressure. I’m not obviously used to this, so I just got to figure out how to play at that level that I played at,” Kenin said.

The American came into the year’s first Major on the back of some underwhelming performances, especially her loss in the early rounds of the Abu Dhabi WTA.

Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 11, 2021 Sofia Kenin of the U.S. looks dejected after losing her second round match against Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi REUTERS/Loren Elliott

Sofia Kanepi concedes that she couldn’t handle the pressure of being defending champion

Though the lack of belief and the rust from the Covid-curtailed 2020 season did not reflect in her opening-round win over Australian Maddison Inglis, they crept up with devastating consequences against a superior opponent in the second round.

Reflecting on her run of poor results, Kenin said it was perhaps an affirmation of how her game has been strangely amiss in her recent fixtures.

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“Because like today and those matches, it just hasn’t been there,” the World Number 4 said, in a frank assessment of where her game is at right now.

What stood out in her defeat to the Estonian on Thursday was how she trailed in all significant match stats. 

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To her opponent’s 10 aces, the American couldn’t respond with a single one. Also, despite creating the same number of breakpoint opportunities as the Estonian, she couldn’t convert any.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

977 articles

Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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