Ousted champ breaks down after shock exit
Defending Australian Open women's champion Sofia Kenin has broken down in tears while detailing the enormous weight of expectation that she felt entering this year's tournament.
The 2020 champion, Kenin suffered a shock second-round loss to unseeded Estonian Kaia Kanepi on Thursday, falling in straight sets 6-3 6-2.
In an emotional post-match press conference, the American said she had felt "nervous" about returning to the Australian Open and those nerves had come through in her game on the court.
"Since last year, I won, then obviously I feel like everyone is kind of expecting me to do that (again)," Kenin said.
"It's obviously tough.
"I felt like I wasn't there. My head wasn't there.
"Obviously I'm not going to take any credit away from her (Kanepi). She played really well at those good points. I had chances. I just couldn't take it. I obviously know why - because the nerves big time got to me."
Asked specifically what it felt like to be expected to defend her title, Kenin broke down in tears.
"I mean, I feel like everyone was always asking me, 'Would you want to? Do you see yourself getting there and winning again?'" she said.
"Obviously I said 'yes'. Yeah, I mean, with the way I'm playing, no."
The World No. 4, Kenin had backed up last year's Australian Open triumph by making the final at the 2020 French Open and made the fourth round of the US Open.
But after a straight-sets win over Australian Maddison Inglis in her first-round match, Kenin was stopped in her tracks by 35-year-old Kanepi.
Kanepi had made the third round of the Australian Open just twice before from 11 visits to Melbourne Park.
Kenin, 22, said she had "no idea" what would come next for her but right now she felt "real off" about her entire game.
"I obviously felt like I'm not there 100% physically, mentally, my game," she said.
"I know I couldn't really handle the pressure. I'm not obviously used to this, so right now I've just got to figure out how to play at that level that I played at (last year). Because like today and those matches, it just hasn't been there."
Originally published as Ousted champ breaks down after shock exit