Tears were flowing from Sofia Kenin as she prepared to play the Adelaide International, her first competitive match in nearly six months. But after a 2021 campaign that was hampered by illness and injury, the 23-year-old American did what she always does. She steeled herself to secure a straight-sets win over Italian qualifier Lucia Bronzetti to begin what she hopes will be a resurgent 2022 campaign.
Now ranked No.12, Kenin is back in her happy place in Australia. She rose up the rankings over the 2019 and 2020 seasons in which she won her first three titles in 2019 before leveling up to take home the 2020 Australian Open trophy. She then finished as runner-up at Roland Garros that fall and reaching a career-high of No.4.
Kenin spoke to WTA Insider after her first-round win in Adelaide to discuss her mindset:
WTA Insider: After winning your first match in six months, how are you feeling?
Kenin: It's not 100 percent, but I'm getting there. I was preparing for over a month before coming here. It was a hard pre-season, getting up at six in the morning, eight o'clock, my fitness started, then tennis, back to fitness. So it was back to reality, I guess. I had to take some time off. I felt like I needed it.
It was not easy to get started with fitness, but then as I started it was good. Coming here I was a bit nervous. It was a bit strange, a new place, traveling. After a few days I got used to it. It was started feeling like a routine.
So yeah, I think my preparation has been good. Right now, I'm just going to enjoy every moment. I haven't played in a while, so there's no pressure on myself. But I want to do well and I want to win. So it's not like I'm going to go on court and not care. You know me.
WTA Insider: As you start your 2022 season, what are you looking for game-wise?
Kenin: Matches, definitely. The better I play, the more matches I get, the more comfortable I'll feel on court. Obviously not expecting to win everything, but every match I win is a boost of confidence. It's a little bit different than my other mentality before, but I'll get there.
I'm still that feisty competitive kid who hates to lose and everything, a little diva. I just got to ease my way into things.
WTA Insider: Have you set goals for this season?
Kenin: Obviously I want to do well and my dad wants me to do well. We didn't really set a goal. Right now it's match-by-match. A win is a win, we'll take it. It's very good compared to not playing for six months, getting back out there. So I don't have much pressure in terms of that.
But obviously would love to be Top 10 by the end of the year. I'm going to try to work hard to get there. I feel like the worst case, if I don't have the best first half season, I've got the rest, which I missed out last year due to injury and COVID. So I feel like I should be fine as long as my head's there and I feel like it is there and I'm getting back into things.
WTA Insider: What would make you happy this year?
Kenin: Obviously I would love to win Slams or a Slam, to go deep. It's hard to say win a Slam. I don't want to sound like a spoiled little brat, but of course it would be amazing. But to get deep in a Slam, at least quarterfinals would be a really big boost for me after not playing for six months.
Of course, being healthy. Slams are not everything. There are more tournaments. So I feel like the more matches, the more I see that I'm getting back, the more confidence I'm getting.
[Wednesday] after the match, getting the attention was nice and I missed it. I missed my fans. I stepped on a court, I was treated with love after the match. It was nice because of course, sometimes it feels like people forgot about me, so it was just nice to have that feeling back.
WTA Insider: Can you separate the results from being happy on court?
Kenin: I'm kind of hard on myself. I've put in the work and obviously would want the results to at least come. I don't want to be on a five-match losing streak. Obviously I know I can lose, but I would like to see some kind of progress. Even if it's not 0 to 100, then 0 to 50. Something.
WTA Insider: How much does your 2020 season stay with you now?
Kenin: Obviously I've been there and done that, so it's not like I'm coming in as a newbie. The belief, obviously the confidence that I have, try to build on it. With every match that I won during that season, I got more and more confidence. So I think with every match I win that will get me confidence. If I play a good level, hopefully I'll improve.
Hopefully I should be back to where I want to be. We've got a whole year ahead. I haven't played in some time so I have some time to get there and get where I want to be. I feel like if I play like I did in my first round and better, I should be back feeling how I felt in no time. But level-wise, I think I'm there. I've never lost it, but obviously I haven't played. But I knew I have it.