Sofia Kenin Embracing The Calm Before The Storm In Melbourne - UBITENNIS
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Sofia Kenin Embracing The Calm Before The Storm In Melbourne

The American world No.4 says she is not putting too much pressure on herself ahead of the Australian Open.



If Sofia Kenin was looking for a match which tested her both mentally and physically, she had her prayers answered on Wednesday at the Yarra Valley Classic.


The world No.4 was pushed to her limits by compatriot Jessica Pegula who she outlasted 5-7, 7-5, 6-2. Although the score doesn’t tell the full story with Kenin at one stage trailing by a set and 1-4 before fighting back to secure the win. During what was a lacklustre performance, she struggled behind her second serve in which she only won 45% of points played. Overall, Kenin did hit 14 more winners than Pegula but she also committed 10 more unforced errors.

“I just kept fighting,and then I found my groove, I was happy the way I was able to change things in the second. First I did some things wrong, then I made the adjustment in the second,” said Kenin.
“I was missing so many first serves. I was getting quite annoyed. Then I started making them. I started going after my second serves, which was good. Then it kind of let me down a little bit at 5-2 (in the third set). A win is a win, so I’ll take it,” she added.

22-year-old Kenin is hoping for a deep run this week in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open where she is the defending champion. She kicked-off her season last month in the Middle East where she reached the quarter-finals of the Abu Dhabi Open before losing to Maria Sakkari. Although the one difference is Melbourne is being held in front of a crowd with the Australian Open set to welcome up to 30,000 people each day.

“I can’t wait for next week, to play in front of a bigger crowd. Hopefully the Aussie fans will be on my side.”

2020 was a breakout year for the Russian-born player whose family moved to America a couple months after she was born. Besides her Melbourne triumph, she also won the Lyon Open and reached the final of the French Open. Overall, she won 24 out of 33 matches played last year and was named the WTA’s Player of the Year in December.

However, trying to carry that momentum into a new season is never easy with Kenin admitting that she will be facing a lot of pressure during her title defence at the Australian Open. The last time a female player won the same Grand Slam two years in a row was Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2016.

“I’m happy that I feel like this tournament, I’m not putting too much pressure on myself. I’m trying to get as many matches as I possibly can, try to feel my game. Then come Australian Open, it’s going to be different: more pressure on myself and everything,” said Kenin.
“I guess this week is a little bit of a relaxation week for me mentally because I’m not really crazy right now. I’m kind of trying to stay as calm as possible. Coming up, it will be really, really hectic.”

Next up for Kenin will be a clash with Garbine Muguruza at the Yarra Valley event. The player who she beat to win the Australian Open title 12 months ago.

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Luca Van Assche rallies from two sets to one down to beat Alex Michelsen



Luca Van Assche came back from two sets to one down to defeat Alex Michelsen 4-3 (7-0) 3-4 (4-7) 3-4 (4-7) 4-1 4-3 (8-6) in 2 hours and 36 minutes at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah in the second longest match in the history of this tournament. 


Van Assche and Michelsen went on serve in the first three sets. Both players saved all five break points they faced in the first three sets. 

There were three consecutive breaks in the fourth set. Van Assche earned two of them and served out the set at love in the fifth game. 

Both players traded breaks in the fifth and sixth games of the fifth set. Van Assche earned a chance to serve for the match, but Michelsen pulled back on serve to force a tie-break. 

Van Assche built a 3-0 in the tie-break with an early mini-break. Michelsen saved two match points to draw level to 6-6. Van Assche sealed the win with another mini-break on the second match point. 

“He was playing very well the whole match. It was really close. Not a lot of breaks and it was difficult for me but I am very happy”, said Van Assche. 

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Arthur Fils beats Dominic Stricker to end Green Group unbeaten



Arthur Fils battled past Dominic Stricker 4-2 3-4 (3-7) 4-2 4-3 (7-5) after 1 hour and 47 minutes in the final round-robin match to end the Green Group unbeaten with a 3-0 record at the Next Gen ATP Finals. 


Stricker knew that he would advance to the semifinals if he won just one set. The Swiss player won the set he needed against the already qualified Fils to secure his spot in the semifinal despite the defeat. 

Stricker saved a break point on the deciding point in the third game of the fourth set. Fils earned the break in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead and served out on his second set point. 

Stricker held serve at love in the first game of the fourth set. The Swiss player broke serve on the deciding point to open up a 2-0 lead. Fils broke straight back in the third game and held serve at 15 to draw level to 2-2. Fils earned three mini-breaks, but Stricker pulled back on serve each time. Fils sealed the tie-break 7-5 on his second match point. 

Stricker beat Fils 7-6 7-6 in Gstaad in their only previous head-to-head match last summer. 

Fils saved two break points in the first game to hold serve. Stricker fended off a break point in the fourth game on the deciding point to draw level to 2-2. Fils earned his first break on his third set point with a forehand return winner in the sixth game to clinch the first set 4-2. 

Stricker saved the only break point of the second set in the fourth game. Both players held on their serve en route to the tie-break. Stricker won six consecutive points from 0-1 down with two mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-3. 

Fils won his first title in Lyon and reached the final in Antwerp

“I knew before the match that I qualified, but I just want to win every match that I am playing. I think I put a little bit more focus out there out there today than the first two days because I know this opponent and he already beat me this year. It was a tough match but I am really happy to win and let’s see who I get in the semifinal”, said Fils in the post- match interview. 

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Luca Nardi beats Flavio Cobolli but it’s not enough to advance to the semifinals at the Next Gen Finals



World number 115 Luca Nardi overcame Flavio Cobolli in an Italian match 3-4 (4-7) 4-2 4-3 (7-1) 1-4 4-3 (7-3) in 2 hours and 14 minutes in the final round robin match of Green Group at the Next Gen Finals at King Abdullah Sports Club in Jeddah. 


The win was not enough to earn a semifinal spot for Nardi. Arthur Fils is the first player to qualify for the knock-out stage. The top seeded Frenchman will face Dominic Stricker later today. Stricker needs to win just one set to reach the semifinals. 

Both players went on serve in the first set en route to the tie-break. Cobolli earned two mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-4. 

Nardi saved two break points in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 lead. The world number 115 broke serve in the sixth game to close out the second set 4-2. 

Cobolli converted his second break point in the first game of the third set. Nardi pulled back on serve in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Nardi opened up a 3-0 lead with two mini-breaks. Cobolli pulled one of the two mini-breaks back for 1-3. Nardi won the final four points with two mini-breaks to claim the tie-break 7-1. 

Nardi clutched his groin when he was serving at 0-1 in the fourth set and called a medical time-out at 0-3. Cobolli earned a break in the second game to close out the fourth set 4-1. 

Cobolli saved two break points to hold serve in the second game. Nardi fended off two break points in the fifth game. Both players held on serve en route to the tie-break. Nardi earned his first mini-break with a backhand flick from out wide to take a 2-1 lead. Cobolli pulled the mini-break back to draw level to 2-2. Nardi closed out the match with a return down the line winner.   

Nardi hit 27 winners to 12 unforced errors. 

“I am happy with the win. Even if I did not qualify, I think today was the best match I played out of the three. I am a bit sad I did not qualify, but I did not want to leave Jeddah without a win. I kept fighting today and I am happy”, said Nardi. 

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