As Sofia Kenin approaches the anniversary of her Australian Open triumph, the American expects plenty of nerves when she begins her title defense next week.

"It’s going to be a little bit of a roller coaster next Monday or Tuesday—whenever I get to play," she tells reporters after her opening round win over Camila Giorgi. "You guys and the fans will probably see more emotions then, but right now, it’s quieter, and I’m trying to get into the rhythm.

"I’ll have to figure out how I can handle the nerves next week."


The No. 2 seed at the Yarra River Valley Classic, Kenin has done what she can to keep her cool, adjusting to the conditions with friend and fellow major champion Jelena Ostapenko during the duo's requisite two-week quarantine.

"My first practice was Tuesday, and we had to wait a few days, which was interesting, having to do that. Our first practice was on Rod Laver, so I was smiling and it was great."

With her relentless firepower and arhythmic aggression, the 2017 French Open champion doesn't immediately strike me as the ideal practice partner, but Kenin, herself a runner-up at Roland Garros, reassures:

"We’ve practiced a few times in the past, and I have really good rhythm with her. I’m happy with the way it went, and we got along. I can say we have similar characters. We’re both quite stubborn and can get mad at the smallest things. We won’t blame ourselves if we’re missing; we’ll get mad and blame the court or the net. Still, it was fun and we got along really well."

"It was funny though, because after the two weeks I practiced with [Elina] Svitolina, which was another great practice, but it was obviously different because I had gotten so used to Alona’s pace and rhythm!"


Ostapenko helps 
Kenin keep calm 
for AO title defense

Ostapenko helps Kenin keep calm for AO title defense

Getty Images

Edging through the opening set of her clash before the Italian was forced to retire, Kenin will look to continue building on her Abu Dhabi quarterfinal finish back in January, and hopes to draw on advice from father Alex and even ATP No. 1 Novak Djokovic, whom she first met last year on the eve of her major breakthrough.

"We were practicing next to each other, and was really nice about it," she recalled in Abu Dhabi. "He told me some things about playing the final, which was really special because I was crazy nervous. He told me some things which I will not disclose, because I would rather keep it secret.

"I used to be very, very emotional on court, crying and stuff," she added in Melbourne today. "It’s obviously better now, so mentally, I have improved. I might ask Novak for more advice, but I won’t seek him out. It’s not like I’m going to go up to him like, ‘Hey!’ We’ve already talked, but I’ll stick with my dad and if I have a chance to talk to Novak again, I will."

When another reporter notes her seemingly carefree attitude in practice with Ostapenko earlier in the week, the brutally honest American can't help but clarify that the facade is still very much a work in progress.

"I’m glad I looked relaxed because I’m honestly nervous and trying to show that everything is all good, even when I’m shaking!"