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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Ugo Humbert saves three match points to beat Hubert Hurkacz in Dubai

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Fifth-seed Ugo Humbert came back from one set down to beat Hubert Hurkacz 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-3. Humbert had beaten Hurkacz en route to his title in Marseille. 

Hurkacz converted his third break point in the fourth game to win the first set 6-3. Humbert saved three match points in the tie-break of the second set before converting his first set point to force the match to the decider. Humbert broke twice to seal the third set 6-3. 

“It was a great battle. I tried to battle for every point. In the tie-break I saved three match points, tried to do my best and thanks to those French fans for the amazing support”, said Humbert. 

Humbert set up a semifinal match against Danil Medvedev, who beats Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2 6-3. Humbert leads 2-1 in their head-to-head matches, but Medvedev won their most recent match in three sets at the China Open in their most recent head-to-head match in Beijing last year.

“It’s going to be a great challenge against Danil tomorrow. We had a few great fights. Hopefully I will recover well to be ready for this match”, said Humbert. 

Aleksander Bublik was leading Jiri Lehecka 6-4 4-1 when the Czech player was forced to retire due to an injury. Bublik set up a match against Andrey Rublev, who was leading Sebastian Korda 6-4 4-3  when the Czech player withdrew due to injury. 

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

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Image via https://twitter.com/RioOpenOficial/

One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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Emma Raducanu Among Trio of Grand Slam Winners Handed Miami Open Wild Cards

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Emma Raducanu - Cincinnati 2022 (foto Twitter @cincytennis)

Emma Raducanu has avoided the possibility of having to go through qualifying at the Miami Open after being awarded a wild card for the event on Thursday. 

The 2021 US Open champion is among four players to have received passes into the main draw of the prestigious event, which is classed as a WTA 1000 for the women and as a Masters 1000 for the men. It will be the third straight year that Raducanu has played in Miami but she is yet to win a match there. In 2022 she lost her opening match to Katerina Siniakova before getting beaten by Bianca Andreescu 12 months later. 

Raducanu has won two out of five Tour-level matches played so far this year. Recently her agent, Max Eisenbud, hit back at those who have criticised the tennis star’s results since winning the US Open. Raducanu also missed a chunk of last season due to injury after undergoing wrist and ankle surgery. 

“The girl did everything backward. She skipped every step. She won the US Open, she went to the next tournament, she didn’t even know where the player lounge was, she didn’t know where the practice courts were,” Eisenbud told the Served With Andy Roddick podcast.
“I don’t think just being tough on her or critical on her like any other player [is wrong]. But she is still figuring it out. I just think that people should not be malicious.”

Other players to have received wild cards into Miami include Venus Williams, who is a three-time champion at the event but hasn’t won the title since 2001. The 43-year-old hasn’t played on the Tour since August and is currently ranked outside the world’s top 400. 

Carolina Wozniacki completes the line-up of former Grand Slam winners being given wild cards. The Dane was a Miami finalist back in 2017 and has made 12 appearances at the tournament. Earlier this week, she suffered a 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, loss to Anna Blinkova in the first round of the San Diego Open. 

As for the men’s tournament, the only confirmed wild card recipient is Kei Nishikori who will be making his first competitive start since July 2023. Recently the injury-stricken Japanese player added Thomas Johansson to his team. 

The Miami Open will get underway on March 17th.

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