Jittery reigning champion Kenin brushes off leg injury concerns

Nick Mulvenney
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: WTA Premier 5 - Italian Open

By Nick Mulvenney

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Sofia Kenin admitted she was still struggling to control her nerves ahead of her Australian Open title defence but said a leg injury that affected her in a warm-up defeat had cleared up.

The American was reduced to tears on Friday after a 6-2 6-2 loss to Garbine Muguruza in a rematch of last year's Australian Open final during the Yarra Valley Classic.

Foruth seed Kenin conceded she still had some work to do on the mental side of her game, particularly as she is aware she will have a target on her back after her Grand Slam breakthrough at Melbourne Park last year.

"Obviously I would love to defend it," the 22-year-old told reporters.

"Mentally, I've got to handle my emotions and understand whoever I'm going to play, they're obviously going to play with no pressure, which is expected.

"They're probably going to play better against me, so I have to somehow try to handle my nerves and try to stick to my game plan and hope that I win."

While she was keen not to take anything away from an impressive performance by Muguruza in Friday's match, Kenin said she had been hampered by a groin problem.

"It was completely sore," she said. "It kind of got better, but it wasn't the best.

"It's better (now), which I don't understand. Obviously, I'm not going to complain about that. I want it to be better for AO."

Kenin, who also reached the French Open final last year, thought the two weeks of quarantine in Melbourne before the tournament might have contributed to a rash of injuries in the warm-up events.

"Obviously you can see that being in a room for two weeks, not playing, practising, it's not the same as playing a match clearly," she added.

"It's obviously different but everyone's obviously going to be ready for Australian Open, for sure. I feel like everyone's just hungry to play and finally get on the court."

Kenin plays wild card Maddison Inglis in the opening round on Monday or Tuesday and said she was confident she would not still be carrying the weight of the Muguruza defeat.

"I'm not going to go into the match thinking that I lost. I'm just going to go into the match thinking I played my best game, hopefully," she said.

"I told my dad this morning, I'd rather lose to Garbine yesterday and win Australian Open than lose Australian Open and win."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)