Sofia Kenin has revealed that she has gone through the full spectrum of emotions over the course of the last week, which saw her as a key member of the American team that lost the Fed Cup final 3-0 to the Czech Republic.
The final match of that tie, in which Kenin pushed Katorina Siniakova all the way in three incredible sets before losing, 7-5, 5-7, 7-5, proved to be a particularly dramatic affair.
The 19-year-old American, who will celebrate her 20th birthday on November 14, had a couple of match points after receiving treatment on her thigh but could not convert in what was a thrilling but mentally gruelling encounter.
“It was a really close match and we were really emotional after it. When we were walking off court we were both crying,” she reflected.
“It was a really long match, with a lot of effort, we fought hard to the end.
“It’s disappointing for me, I had two match points and it could really have turned things around. I really did everything I could.”
Nevertheless, the WTA World No.48 is determined to draw positives from what has been a memorable week, even if she also went down in three close sets against Barbora Styrcova.
“It’s been an amazing week of practice and these past two days, I’ll never forget them,” she said.
“I’m proud of the way I competed. I fought to the end. Even when I was down, I was always fighting.
“No matter what, I’m going to fight to the end. Unfortunately, I didn’t win.
“I’ve had a good year. In these past couple of days I’ve had a couple of great matches playing against the best players in the world. I know I belong, I’m improving, and next year will be good.”
Meanwhile, American captain Kathy Rinaldi echoed the sentiments of the teenager and hailed the efforts of all the players she used in what was ultimately a failed attempt to defend the title won in 2017.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” she said. “This week has been amazing; the four players have really bonded. The team atmosphere was incredible.
“We didn’t get the result that we wanted, but no-one can say that we didn’t leave it all out there.
“As far as 2018, it’s been an incredible year to get to the final again. I’m grateful to all the players this year, who played in all three of the teams. It was a true team effort.”
She has had her eye on Kenin for some time now, and praised the youngster’s performance under pressure against Siniakova.
“I’ve known her since she was seven, and I couldn’t be prouder of what she’s done,” she said. “That match was incredible. I’m honoured to have been a part of that match. The points were incredible. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Looking ahead to next year, during which Olympic selection will be up for grabs via the Fed Cup, Rinaldi is hopeful that the nation’s top players will be available for selection, though she is understanding of why they were unable to commit to the Prague tie.
“It’s a gruelling calendar and I know many wanted to be here but couldn’t, because of injury or fatigue. I support them. I want what’s best for them,” she said. “I hope next year players play because they want to play Fed Cup and represent their country. I know the Olympics is a big deal, but I think everyone was excited to play Fed Cup.
“I’m looking forward to 2019 – we start off against Australia in Ashville in February – we had a great time there last year. They’re super excited to have us back and it should be a lot of fun.”