Sofia Kenin Talks Mental Struggles Ahead Of Australian Open Defence - UBITENNIS
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Sofia Kenin Talks Mental Struggles Ahead Of Australian Open Defence

The world No.4 opens up about the struggles she experienced during 2020.

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A year ago Sofia Kenin started her trajectory to become the next big thing in women’s tennis after lifting the Australian Open title at the age of 21.

 

At the Melbourne major she scored wins over the likes of Ons Jabeur, Ash Barty and Garbine Muguruza to become the youngest American player to win a major title since Serena Williams back in 2002. Following the milestone, Kenin suffered a series of disappointing losses before winning her next title in Lyon during March. However, what she didn’t know at the time was that she would not be able to play again for another five months.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the world of tennis to a standstill with various tournaments either cancelled or suspended. Sudden Kenin’s climb in sport stopped and there was nothing she could do about it apart from wait. It was an unfortunate situation for the sport to be in and Kenin herself admits it had a big impact on her mental health too.

Last year was supposed to be the best year after winning a slam and then COVID happened,” Kenin told reporters at a Motorola virtual breakfast on Thursday.
“It took a big toll on me and obviously I was quite disappointed.
“It’s kind of hard to get motivated when constantly every tournament is being cancelled.
“You see that for four or five months there are no tournaments which makes it really tough.”

During that period the world No.4 was still able to train at a private academy but her motivation for the sport suffered a blow. Her only taste of competitive tennis during the break was the World TeamTennis event where she played for the Philadelphia Freedoms.

“It was great but at the beginning our practices weren’t the best – no motivation,” she said.
“It was quite depressing to be honest.
“But my dad knew why I was feeling like this so he obviously helped me.”

Despite her problems, Kenin managed to enjoy success once again with the Tour resumed by reaching the final of the French Open in October, as well as the fourth round of the US Open. Her performance in 2020 was officially recognized by the WTA who named her Player of the Year in their annual awards.

Kenin is yet to defend a title of any kind in her professional career but will be hoping to end that run at the Australian Open. The task of doing so will be far from simple with only two players having done that within the past 15 years – Williams and Victoria Azarenka. Nevertheless, she is relishing the challenge.

“Definitely a little bit of pressure, for sure. But I’m going to do my best and I’m really looking forward to the challenge as defending champion,” she told the TODAY show.
“It comes with pros and cons but I’m really looking forward to it.
“I love being at this level and competing with the best players in the world.
“I worked really hard to get here and it’s an honour. It’s going to be a great challenge, everyone is super excited to be back here and with the fans, 50 per cent of the fans, I feel it’s going to be somewhat normal.
“I cannot wait to see the fans and the energy. All of us are really excited.”

Fortunately for the American she was not one of the 72 players who had to go into strict quarantine after being declared a close contact of somebody who tested positive for COVID-19. Meaning she has been allowed to train on court during the past two weeks.

Kenin started this season in Abu Dhabi where she reached the quarter-finals before losing in three sets to Maria Sakkari. She will return to action next week at the WTA Yarra Valley Classic.

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Matteo Berrettini reaches his second Masters 1000 semifinal

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Matteo Berrettini has reached the second Masters 1000 semifinal of his career with his 5-7 6-3 6-0 win over Cristian Garin at the Madrid Mutua Open at the Caja Magica. 

 

Berrettini fought back from 3-6 1-3 down by winning 11 consecutive games to take the win in the third set. 

Garin earned an immediate break in the first game, but Berrettini broke straight back to draw level to 1-1. Garin won seven consecutive points from 5-5 15-30 to claim the first set 7-5 with a break in the 11th game thanks to a backhand passing shot. 

Garin went up a 3-1 lead in the second set with a break in the third game. Berrettini broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3 with a forehand winner on the break point. 

Berrettini earned his second break to take a 5-3 lead, when Garin made three unforced errors. The Italian player served out 6-3 at love with an ace.

Berrettini broke serve in the first game and saved two break-back points in the second game to hold serve for 2-0. Berrettini earned his double break in the third game, as Garin made two consecutive unforced errors at 40-40. Berrettini held serve at duece to race out to a 4-0 lead. Garin missed four game points in the fifth game before dropping serve to trail 0-5, when he committed a double fault and an unforced error. Berrettini served out the third set at love with his 14th ace after 2 hours and 6 minutes to secure his spot in his first Masters 1000 semifinal since Shanghai 2019.    

“I am really proud that I came back from not an easy place mentally after my injury. I really worked hard. There were days. There were days where I wasn’t really feeling into practice because I felt like kind of there was a lot of work to be done. Sometimes I was feeling kind of unlucky that I got injured again. It was just tough, but I came back stronger in Belgrade. For here, I proved to myself that I am strong inside”, said Berrettini. 

Berrettini will take on Casper Ruud in the semifinals. They will battle for a spot into their first Masters 1000 final. Ruud beat Berrettini in the quarter final in Rome last year. 

“I think he is a great player, especially on clay. He has been playing really good, really solid so far this season. We always had tough matches. Last year in Rome it was a really tough match. Still if I think about it, it hurts. I am really looking forward to get my revenge, not in a bad way, but just in a way that’s in a sport way”, said Berrettini. 

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Casper Ruud reaches his third consecutive clay Masters 1000 semifinal

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Casper Ruud beat Alexander Bublik 7-5 6-1 to reach his third career Masters 1000 semifinal at the Madrid Mutua Open after advancing to this stage in Rome in 2020 and Monte-Carlo in 2021. 

 

Ruud backed up his win in the third round against Stefanos Tsitsipas on Thursday with a straight set win over Bublik. Ruud won 8 of the final nine games and hit 19 winners to seal the win in 69 minutes. Ruud hit nine forehand winners to just two unforced forehand errors.

Ruud broke Bublik in the 11th game on his fourth set point to take the first set 7-5, as Bublik was serving at 5-6. The Norwegian player broke twice in the fourth and sixth games to claim the second set 6-1 in 69 minutes. 

The son of former Norwegian player Christian Ruud has not broken yet and faced his first break point this week against Bublik. 

Ruud becomes the seventh unseeded ATP player to advance to the semifinals in Madrid. He will face either Matteo Berrettini or Christian Garin in the semifinal. 

 “It’s a great feeling. It’s my third Masters 1000 semifinal and my third in a row on clay. I am just playing the tennis of my life for the moment and I am enjoying it. I have just had an unbelievable motivation to play the European clay swing and when we didn’t get to play it last year, I was very sad. I think I have just double motivation compared to last year”, said Ruud.

Ruud will move up to at least world number 16 in the ATP Ranking next week. 

“I did a lot of good work when we had the corona break last year. I trained really hard on the weekdays and took the weekends off. I think that worked well. When we started well, I felt good again. I think I am a much better player mentally, physically and playing-wise as well. I am hitting the ball and playing the heavy clay-court game that I like to play”, said Ruud. 

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Aryna Sabalenka beats Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova to set up a re-match of the Stuttgart final against Ashleigh Barty

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Aryna Sabalenka has reached her third final of the season with a 6-2 6-3 win over six-time Grand Slam quarter finalist Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova in the semifinal of the Madrid Mutua Open. 

 

Sabalenka earned her first break to take a 3-1 lead. She hi a series of forehands in the final game to close out the first set 6-2. 

Sabalenka raced out to a 4-0 lead with a double break. Pavlyuchenkova earned her first break points, but Sabalenka held serve for 5-0. Pavlyuchenkova pulled one break in the seventh game and held serve to claw her way back to 3-5. Sabalenka hit two backhands to earn her first match point and sealed the win with her fourth ace .  

Sabalenka has extended her win-loss record to 23-6 (including 9-1) this year. She has won the opening tournament of the season and lost the Stuttgart Porsche Grand Prix final to Ashleigh Barty. 

Barty and Sabalenka will meet again in the Madrid Mutua Open this week in the re-match of the Stuttgart final

The Belarusian player has not dropped a set this week. The Belarusian player won 73 % of her second service points and converted four of her break points against Pavlyuchenkova, who had won their only previous head-to-head match in Toronto in 2019. 

“I think my game has improved a lot on the clay court. For sure, it’s given me some confidence, but there are still so many things to work on. I am just really with my level here in Madrid. I think from the side it looks like everything is going my way. Some games I did not feel my serve. Some games something wasn’t working. It’s always part of the process, but I am really happy that from the side, it looks like everything is going my way”,said Sabalenka. 

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