'I Wouldn't Want to be Anywhere Else':
Kenin Returns at Fed Cup
Victoria Chiesa | February 6, 2020
EVERETT, Wash. — Sofia Kenin certainly would've been forgiven if she needed, or even wanted, a vacation.
But less than 96 hours after winning her first Grand Slam title on the other side of the world, the American was not only back on U.S. soil but ready to be back on the tennis court.
After winning the Australian Open just five days ago, the 21-year-old will now lead Team USA against Latvia at Angel of the Winds Arena in one of eight 2020 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Qualifiers taking place around the world this weekend with a spot in April's new-look Fed Cup Finals in Budapest at stake.
It's been a whirlwind week for Kenin since she defeated former world No. 1 Garbiñe Muguruza on Saturday night in Melbourne, which earned her several career milestones. Not only did the victory earn her a maiden Grand Slam title, it catapulted her into the Top 10 in the world rankings, and allowed her to supplant Serena Williams as the American No. ADVERTISEMENT 1.
On Sunday, Kenin took part in the traditional champion's photoshoot on the bank of the Yarra River, but by Wednesday evening, she was with the rest of her Team USA teammates at Boeing's Future of Flight museum—a 19-hour time difference—at the official Fed Cup welcome dinner after arriving in the Pacific Northwest earlier in the day.
"I wouldn't want to be anywhere else," Kenin told usta.com at Thursday's pre-event media availability. "Coming here to Fed Cup, I knew it was going to be a big adjustment and a turnaround, but I was super excited when [U.S. captain] Kathy [Rinaldi] told me I was going to be on the team.
"And of course, to be with Serena Williams, who's my idol; Coco [Gauff], who's playing some really good tennis; Ali [Riske], one of my dearest friends; and Bethanie [Mattek-Sands], we won a title [in doubles at the 2019 China Open], it's just a great team."
Now a Top-10 player ranked world No. 7 by virtue of winning her maiden major, Kenin enters this weekend's tie for her first competitve action as the top-ranked American—just the seventh woman to earn that distinction since Nov. 5, 2001.
While it might be an unfamiliar position for Kenin in the WTA rankings, it's a little more familiar one for her in national competition. In 2018, a teenaged Kenin was selected by Rinaldi as the No. 1 player in the Fed Cup Final in the Czech Republic, where she lost a pair of marathon matches to Barbora Strycova and Katerina Siniakova.
Less than two years later, she'll lead the way in Everett in just her fourth Fed Cup tie. Kenin had her first practice at Angel of the Winds Arena on Thursday morning with Serena Williams, who's expected to play No. 2 singles this weekend.
While Kenin is adjusting to a lot that's new, there will be one other source of familiarity for her when she takes the court on Friday: her first opponent.
She's beaten Latvian No. 2 Anastasija Sevastova, a good friend and former doubles partner, in both of their previous meetings, which included a victory just last month at the Brisbane International in the lead-up to Melbourne.
"I played Anastasija two times. I know her game pretty well," Kenin assessed. "Obviously, she's a tough player, a good player. She's going to come out battling out there. I'm also going to represent my country, leave my heart, everything all out on the court."
On Kenin, the Latvian added: "I'm good friends with Sofia. I know her well. We played in Brisbane this year actually, and also last year in Mallorca on grass. It's going to be a tough match. We practiced also a lot together so we know each other well. It's a bit different in Fed Cup, I think—from the atmosphere ... because there's the team around. We're looking forward to it."
While Kenin admitted that she might still be mentally processing all that she's experienced over the course of the last few weeks—calling the Australian Open the "best experience of my life"—she's ready to take on her next challenge.
"[When] Kathy [Rinaldi] told me I'm going to join Fed Cup, I told her, 'Let's go, we're going to do some stuff,'" Kenin said. "I was happy to take time off and come here. Even though it was a long journey, I would have done anything to represent my country and be with my team.
"Playing for my country, it's such a different feeling. It's way different than even playing in Australia, and winning the title. Obviously, [winning the Australian Open] meant everything to me, because it was my dream, but Fed Cup ... it's different emotions.
"You have the whole team [surrounding you], and you don't want to let them down. You don't get to experience that often. I just love being a part of Fed Cup and a part of this team.”