DOHA, Qatar - Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin wasted no time getting back on court after her Melbourne triumph and it's all part of her plan to keep her positive momentum going.
After winning her maiden major title, the 21-year-old American headed straight to Everett, Washington to represent the United States at Fed Cup, where she went 1-1 in singles. In Dubai last week, Kenin ran into the other big story of the nascent 2020 season, 20-year-old Kazakh Elena Rybakina, and the younger phenom edged out a 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 win in the first round en route to her fourth final of the season.
Speaking ahead of the Qatar Total Open, Kenin dismissed any concern about her post-Melbourne form as she readies for the first Premier 5 event of the season.
"[Rybakina] played a really good match, she's on a hot streak," Kenin told reporters at All Access Hour. "I just feel like I'd like to get more matches in. Obviously a bit more pressure coming from the outside, a lot more expectations, but I got to figure out how to manage it."
Seeded sixth in Doha, Kenin has a bye into the second round to face either Dayana Yastremska or Kirsten Flipkens. A win in the second round and she could set-up an Australian Open final rematch against Garbiñe Muguruza.
Asked how things have changed for her since Melbourne, Kenin acknowledged she feels more eyes on her now that she's been minted as the newest major champion.
"I just feel like a lot of people are watching and like obviously talking from the outside," Kenin said.
"I obviously want to keep it going. I like all the attention and everything, but obviously it's all different pressure, different expectations. I hope I can somehow manage it. Of course I want to try to get deep in a tournament, I want to keep the momentum going.
"Of course [I have] fears. I don't want to have bad tournaments and drop, so obviously that's in my head, but I try not to think about that because I'm playing well. So hopefully I can just at least maintain my level. I think it would be good enough.
"I don't think I need to expect myself to win every week. I would like to win and I'm playing to win, but hopefully just the better I play and the more matches I have will be good."
En route to the Australian Open title, Kenin dashed the home hopes of an Aussie in the final, defeating Ashleigh Barty in the semifinals. The World No.1 has had a front-seat to the Kenin rise, having faced her five times in the last year.
"It's been an incredible 12 months for her," Barty told reporters in Doha. "I think in particular she's gone from strength to strength and kind of progressed through a little bit under the radar. I don't think a lot of people gave her the respect that she deserves.
"In Melbourne, she fought and scrapped her way through and played some really good tennis in crucial moments and you have to give credit where credit's due. She's now a major champion, no one can ever take that away from her. I think it's amazing."
Now comes the question of dealing with her new status as a major champion, Top 10 player, with a bullseye on her back. Kenin has relied on the counsel of her father and agent to come up with a plan.
"I try to, at least, focus on the match," Kenin said. "That's what I got to figure out how to manage the expectations and people talking from the outside.
"But before Australia and everything, obviously there was different kinds of pressure, but I did have expectations. I was hard on myself. I want to do well in every tournament, it's not a surprise.
"And nothing's changed from my side, the way I am, because I hate losing. You know I hate losing."