'Feisty kid' Kenin up for the fight

 - Alex Sharp

Last year's finalist battles through to second round over 2017 Roland-Garros champion Ostapenko

Sofia Kenin, Roland-Garros 2021 first round©️ Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

With a puff of the cheeks and a look to the sky, Sofia Kenin is relieved to pass the first checkpoint.

Showing intensity, spirit and courageous hitting, the American's tried and test mentality carried her through her opening Roland-Garros 2021 clash.

The No.4 seed punched 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 into the scoreboard to overcome 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko with her archetypal determination. Out of form prior to Paris, make no mistake Kenin means business this fortnight.

“I’m a feisty kid and that helps me in these types of matches. I was just fighting out there. Gave everything on the court and never gave up,” reflected the world No.5.

“I haven’t been feeling my game the past year, so it’s nice to get this kind of win and playing this type of tennis. You need to have some kind of break, some mini-celebration. I feel like for me, this does a lot for my confidence.”

Dominic Thiem, having fallen in the first round on Sunday, opened up about dealing with expectations and motivation after lifting a maiden major. For Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open champion, it is a similar tale of trying to find that spark to re-galvanise her game.

“This year hasn't been the best in terms of defending my title in Australia. Of course, surgery and everything else. Obviously I can relate to that,” continued Kenin, who went under the knife to remove her appendix in February.

“We're humans. Just because we won a Slam doesn't mean we can't have our downs for a little bit, for a little period of time. We can always go back up. It's tennis. It is what it is.

“That's the sport. You win and you lose. You have good moments and bad moments. You just have to find a way to push through.”

It’s a very matter of fact approach from Kenin. The 22-year-old lost all three clay-court matches during her road to Roland-Garros and isn’t getting carried away after one victory back on the terre battue.

"I'm not looking into what's going to happen later. For me it was baby steps to get through round one, since obviously it's never easy getting through to the first round during a Grand Slam,” added the 2020 Roland-Garros finalist.

“Yeah, I'll take one match at a time. That's what I did last year and in Australia. I'll just keep it like that.”

There is a significant change in the stands with Kenin’s father Alex no longer involved as coach.

“Obviously it’s different but I love him and I’m sure we’ll get back but I feel this is what I needed to do for now. I know he’s supporting me back home,” added Kenin, guarded on the next step.

In terms of coaching, we're obviously in discussion and everything. Nothing is set. I will decide when I'm ready to have a coach and everything. As of right now, I have my agent and my fitness coach.

“Obviously the person should know what he's talking about, I guess positivity, I mean, easygoing, regular stuff, what any other player would be looking in a coach. I'm not rushing into looking for a coach as of now, as of this moment.”

Kenin takes on compatriot Hailey Baptiste in the second round and indicated it was vital to surround herself with the right people to help deal with the adversity and lifestyle in the tennis world.

“It's definitely not easy. I mean, this is what you signed up for, this is sport. There's expectations from the outside, sponsors and everyone. You just have to somehow manage it,” explained the 22-year-old.

“You have to have a good team around you who support you. You know they're with you. Anything you say is to them, and that's it. They'll always support you and have your back.”