PARIS (Reuters) - Sofia Kenin joyously lifted her maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open but eight months later the American was left crying in her courtside bench as she watched 19-year-old Iga Swiatek being crowned French Open champion.
Kenin, 21, showed plenty of grit on that warm February night at Melbourne Park to fight her way back from a set down to beat Spain’s Garbine Muguruza in the Australian Open final.
But on Saturday she could do little as the unseeded Swiatek, ranked 54th at the start of the tournament, blazed Court Philippe Chatrier with winners.
“Well, of course Australia was very special. Here was obviously really difficult. She was giving interview, and I was just sitting on the bench and crying,” fourth seed Kenin told reporters.
“Obviously I had a lot of emotions. I tried my best to not cry (while Swiatek was giving her victory) speech and everything. At the end I cried.
“It’s not easy. I wish I would have held that beautiful trophy. It’s not easy when you were so close to win the title and you lost it. But it is what it is.”
Kenin came into the match with her left thigh heavily taped and she also took a medical timeout after the third game of the second set, returning to the court with even more strapping.
She was, however, not ready to use the leg problem as an excuse.
“Today after the first set I just felt it was so tight, I couldn’t move,” she said. “That’s why I had to call the trainer. It just got worse. (But) Like I said, she played really well. All credit to her.”
After lifting her first major in Melbourne, Kenin added a WTA title in Lyon before the COVID-19 shutdown. She then made the fourth round of her home Grand Slam at the U.S. Open.
The American was overall happy with her performance, especially as she arrived in Paris after being routed 6-0 6-0 by Victoria Azarenka in Rome.
“I wish I would have won, but I’m just happy that I got to where I am now,” she said. “I think it’s a good result for me. Of course I’m quite disappointed I didn’t get the title, but overall I’m going to take the positives.”
With the arrival of a brigade of new Grand Slam champions like Swiatek, 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu and Kenin, women’s tennis can look forward to some exciting times.
“It’s a bit more competition on us, the top players,” said Kenin, who considers herself an established player and cannot wait to start shopping again when the pandemic allows.
“But it’s always good to see youngsters taking over and playing great tennis. We have to get ready and prepare because they’re going to play better against us.”
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Pritha Sarkar
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