Dubai: Red-hot favourite Sofia Kenin was disappointed at not being able to live up to expectations and the hype after bowing out in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Women’s Open late on Tuesday.
A champion at the season-opening Australian Open, the 21-year-old American went down in three sets 7-6, 3-6, 3-6 to Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina to join the handful of high-profile exits at the end of the second day of the competition.
“I’m not happy. I’m really upset about this. I really thought I could have somehow turned it around. I felt like I had the match play, I had the confidence. It just didn’t work out today. It’s obviously really upsetting and disappointing at the moment,” she rued at the post-match media conference later in the night.
“I just think it’s the opponents and they played well. They obviously have no pressure. They’re playing more freely. I just feel like there’s more pressure on me obviously. I’m sure it’s a lot of expectations. I didn’t think about it stepping on the court. I just tried to focus on myself, and it doesn’t matter what’s happening,” she added.
To her credit, Rybakina is one of the fast-improving players on the women’s Tour. Last year, the Kazakh stood at a distant No 192, but riding on some excellent performances, she has reached a career-high No 19 in the latest weekly rankings released on Monday.
“I just didn’t feel my game really well. Of course, she played well. She’s having a lot of match play. She’s having great results. She’s playing some really good tennis. I think this is the best tennis that I’ve seen her play. I know her but I had never played her. She’s playing big, serving, playing freely. She’s playing as if she has no pressure and it’s helping her,” the 21-year-old felt.
“I just made too many unforced errors. I just didn’t take my chances. I felt really off the whole match. I tried to somehow get back in there, hang in there, but it just didn’t work out today,” Kenin added.
Despite being out of the singles event, Kenin will be staying back in Dubai at least for an additional day as she is contesting in the doubles alongside good friend and fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands — with whom she hopes to play at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The two Americans were scheduled to play Kevta Peschke and Demi Schuurs on Court Three later on Wednesday. “I just got to prepare for doubles and, hopefully, we can get the win. Next is Doha for me. I will try to do my best,” she promised.
The current world No. 7 was unable to put a finger on the exact reason for her early departure making only her second appearance in Dubai. “I don’t know,” she said. “It’s just a different situation, everything. I mean, in Australia I felt like I was on a roll. I had a lot of matches. Here I’m just starting first match. Obviously, a bit more pressure coming from my side. But I just got to somehow try to manage it for the next tournaments.”
“I’m fine, bodywise everything is fine. I’m not injured or anything. I’m just a little bit tired obviously. Other than that, I feel fine. I’m ready to go.”