Recently crowned Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin arrives at the Qatar Total Open ready to make her mark despite a loss last week in Dubai to kick off the Middle East swing. The American is still brimming with confidence after her run to her first major title in Melbourne and seeks more glory in Doha.
Kenin looks to deal with pressure, expectations of being a major champion
Returning to tour action last week, Kenin suffered a three-set loss to in-form Elena Rybakina in the second round in Dubai. The world number seven was complimentary to her opponent saying "[Rybakina] played a really good match, she's on a hot streak." She also feels the need to get more time on court, stating "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."
Facing Dayana Yastremska in the second round and a possible Australian Open finals rematch with Garbine Muguruza in the third round, Kenin knows more attention is coming her way. "I just feel like a lot of people are watching and like obviously talking from the outside. 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 and 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."
Barty praises American, gives "credit where credit's due"
One of the players she defeated en route to her title in Australia was world number one Ashleigh Barty and she complimented the American, stating "it's been an incredible 12 months for her. 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 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."
Kenin "wants to do well in every tournament"
With the natural pressure of being a major champion now facing the American, she is turning to her father and agent to help her deal with it. "I try to, at least, focus on the match. 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.
"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, cause I hate losing. You know I hate losing."