Dubai: American tennis star Sofia Kenin aims to use the Meteora World Tennis League at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi as the right preparation for the new season.
Kenin, who finished the year at No 33 after beginning at 235, has had a roller-coaster year where she had victories of top names like Liudmila Samsonova and Aryna Sabalenka, could not sustain her winning streak and just reached in one final and one semi-final.
That was enough to bring her back into the top 30, but the 25-year-old aims to start 2024 on a better note as she bids to reclaim her past glory.
“The main thing is to bring back the feeling for the game, get some point play back in my training and kind of get a feel of things, and then carry that momentum into 2024. I’m just trying to have a good preparation period for the season like I’ve been doing, and hopefully, I can have a solid start to 2024,” the former world No 4 said. “I’m fit and healthy at the moment and this should help with preparation for the year, so I’m looking forward to it.”
After a dream 2020 where the American won her first Grand Slam title in the Australian Open and a final appearance in the French Open, Kenin’s game and career nosedived and plummeted to great depths.
Her struggles with her form began in 2021 when as a defending champion Kenin lost in the second round to unseeded Kaia Kanepi. She was forced to withdraw from several events after suffering from appendicitis. While she returned to court, her form eluded her and could not make her mark with the lone exception being the French Open where she reached the fourth round.
Kenin suffered a first-round loss in the 2022 Australian Open and came back strongly to make her way into Adelaide quarter-finals for the first time since 2021 Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne. Kenin suffered five consecutive first round losses and pulled out of all the events in 2022 due to injury.
Kenin, who had played in Abu Dhabi in 2021, said: “It’s the first time I’m playing in the World Tennis League and it’s my first time to play in a team event. So I’m super excited. Honestly, I don’t even know the format as it’s such a different concept to the game, but I’m excited. I’ve got some great team members alongside like Daniil (Medvedev), Mirra (Andreeva) and Andrey (Rublev), and I’m looking forward to representing Team Eagles. I hope we can start well together and go far in the event.”
Born in Moscow, Kenin moved along with her family to the United States a few months after she was born. She began tennis at the age of five and garnered widespread attention at the age of 12.
The second edition of the World Tennis League, to be held from December 21 to 24, features a star-studded field including women’s world No 1 and current French Open champion, Iga Swiatek and men’s world No 3 Medvedev. Elena Rybakina, Sabalenka and Paula Badosa are among the 16 top stars set to represent their franchises in a bid to become champions of 2023.
Kenin will have a score to settle with Rybakina after losing in the Indian Wells second round while she could draw a great confidence from her victory over Sabalenka in the second round of the Madrid Open, her first top-five win since defeating world No 1 Ashleigh Barty in the 2020 Australian Open triumph.
Kenin played it down the talk that she is not looking forward to any contest and said: “Everyone who’s here is obviously a great player. It’s hard to choose just one! I think it’s going to be a great atmosphere with this team event format and I think representing our team well will be important, so I’m looking forward to that. Should be a great weekend.”
Following the success of the inaugural event in 2022, the World Tennis League moves to Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena for its second season.
“The Meteora World Tennis League, billed as the Greatest Show on Court, provides fans with a unique tennis experience as they get to watch their favourite players complete alongside their usual competitors, creating a captivating show on-court,” Rahul Saxena, Chief Operating Officer, WTL, said.
“Off-court, we hope fans look forward to our concert series as we aim to connect with a broader audience based on their preferences. In 2022, our post-match entertainment was widely loved, but for 2023, we’re hoping to attract more fans with varying genres across the tournament.”
Tickets are now on sale via the Etihad Arena website as well as Platinum List and Virgin Megastores.
Rosters and schedule:
Honor FX Falcons: Elena Rybakina, Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz, Leylah Fernandez. Coach: Chris Groh.
PBG Eagles: Daniil Medvedev, Mirra Andreeva, Andrey Rublev, Sofia Kenin. Coach: John Laffnie De Jager.
SG Maverick Kites: Aryna Sabalenka, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Paula Badosa, Grigor Dimitrov. Coach: Robert Lindstead.
Hawks: Iga Swiatek, Hubert Hurkacz, Caroline Garcia, Casper Ruud. Coach: Simon Aspelin.
Day 1: Thursday, December 21:
Hawks vs Honor FX Falcons (2pm)
PBG Eagles vs SG Maverick Kites (6pm)
Day 2: Friday, December 22:
Honor FX Falcons vs SG Maverick Kites (2pm)
PBG Eagles vs Hawks (6pm)
Day 3: Saturday, December 23:
PGB Eagles vs Honor FX Falcons (2pm)
SG Maverick Kites vs Hawks (6pm)