Melbourne: Sofia Kenin’s emotional Australian Open defence ended in a second-round defeat Thursday but top seed Ashleigh Barty overcame a blip to reach the last 16.
The highly-strung Kenin has struggled to handle expectations in her maiden Grand Slam title defence and admitted to having a few tears during a tense opening-round win on Tuesday.
The fourth seed shed more on Margaret Court Arena Thursday after her 6-3, 6-2 defeat in 64 minutes to the Estonian world number 65, becoming the highest-ranked player to go out of the tournament.
“I felt like I wasn’t there, my head wasn’t there,” a teary-eyed Kenin admitted later.
Meanwhile, world number one Barty cast friendship aside with a straight-sets victory over compatriot Daria Gavrilova, but appeared to lose focus serving for the match before closing out for a 6-1, 7-6 (9/7) win against her Fed Cup teammate.
Barty’s left thigh was heavily strapped but she seemed to move with ease in the second-round encounter against 387th-ranked Gavrilova.
“This isn’t very subtle,” Barty said referring to the bandage. “I’m as fit as a fiddle.
“When you play another Aussie, rankings go out of the window, so it was always going to be a tricky match.”
Sixth seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic had few alarms in beating American Danielle Collins, a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park two years ago, 7-5, 6-2.
Swiss 12th seed Belinda Bencic was pushed harder by veteran Russian Svetlana Kutznetsova before coming through 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 in 2hr 39min.
“I know I couldn’t really handle the pressure,” said a emotional and red-eyed Kenin, who wiped away tears during her press conference. ‘‘I mean, obviously I haven’t experienced that. I obviously felt like I’m not there 100 percent physically, mentally, my game. Everything just feels real off. It’s not good.”
Kenin, who had 22 unforced errors and offered little resistance against Kanepi, backed up her first Slam title with a runner-up finish at the French Open, but fell apart once she arrived in Australia.
“I did put pressure on myself there (Roland Garros), but not as much as here,” she said.
“I feel like everyone was always asking me, ‘Do you see yourself getting there and winning again?’
“The Australia trip, I feel like that was something that I had my eye on. I knew I was going to have pressure.’’
Ashleigh Barty (AUS x1) bt Daria Gavrilova (AUS) 6-1, 7-6 (9/7)
Shelby Rogers (USA) bt Olga Danilovic (SRB) 6-2, 6-3
Belinda Bencic (SUI x11) bt Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 7-5, 2-6, 6-4
Elise Mertens (BEL x18) bt Zhu Lin (CHN) 7-6 (10/8), 6-1
Karolina Muchova (CZE x25) bt Mona Barthel (GER) 6-4, 6-1
Karolina Pliskova (CZE x6) bt Danielle Collins (USA) 7-5, 6-2
Yulia Putintseva (KAZ x26) bt Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) 6-4, 1-6, 6-2.