World No. 4 Sofia Kenin recently spoke about how Novak Djokovic helped calm her nerves before the 2020 Australian Open final. The American feels that she could do with Djokovic’s advice this time around as well, given that both players come into the tournament as defending champions.
Sofia Kenin was seeded 14th at last year’s Australian Open and was hardly among the favorites to lift the title. But she did just that, defeating World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in the semifinal and two-time Slam winner Garbine Muguruza in the final.
It was Kenin's maiden foray past the fourth round at any Major, so she was understandably stressed during the business end of the tournament. In a recent interview, the American recalled how Novak Djokovic helped allay her fears during one of the practice sessions before the final against Muguruza.
"He (Novak Djokovic) came up to me and he was really nice about it and told me some things before the final which was special because I was crazy nervous," Kenin said. "He did give me great advice ahead of the final since we were practicing next to each other. He told me some things which I will not disclose since I'd rather keep it a secret."
Now that they have built a rapport, Sofia Kenin believes she can continue looking to Novak Djokovic for advice. The American feels Djokovic’s inputs could come in especially handy this time, given that the Serb knows a thing or two about defending a title in Melbourne.
"I definitely think I can talk to Novak,” Kenin added. "I think that will be helpful since we're both defending champions this year."
Sofia Kenin’s season has already started, as the American leads the field at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Women’s Tennis Open. She is expected to face a qualifier in her first round.
Can Sofia Kenin do a Novak Djokovic and defend her title?
Novak Djokovic has defended the Australian Open title a whopping four times in his career, and is widely expected to make it five at this year’s event. Sofia Kenin, on the other hand, has gone past the fourth round at a Slam only twice in 14 main draw appearances.
However, Sofia Kenin and Novak Djokovic were almost of the same age (21) when they lifted their maiden Grand Slam title (Australian Open).
Kenin’s road to the title in 2021 is arguably trickier than Djokovic’s. The 22-year-old will be competing alongside World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, 23-time Major champion Serena Williams and World No. 2 Simona Halep. Former champions Naomi Osaka and Victoria Azarenka are also expected to be legitimate threats to Kenin.
Interestingly, unlike the men’s section where Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have successfully defended their titles in Australia recently, nobody has done so in the women’s section since Victoria Azarenka in 2013.
Needless to say, Kenin will have her work cut out in Melbourne this time around.