"I lost to her in Acapulco...I'm so happy to have gone through..." Sofia Kenin grinned after defeating Yafan Wang 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the first round of Indian Wells. It could have been that Kenin was still burning from losing the title to Wang just days ago at the Mexican Open in Acapulco.
She might have beaten herself up a bit about not being brilliant in some points when it really counted and let the match and title slip off her racket, giving Wang too many gift points. But she certainly made up for it in this opener at the desert.
The first set Kenin lost at 1-6 probably a bit of butterflies and trying too hard. The unforced errors were constantly present for her, and Wang took full advantage by cross courting her and making her create more errors.
It was now a 'get down to business' attitude Kenin took after she shook off the nerves and played her game. The Chinese was the aggressor and felt she had control of the match. Kenin started to prove that her opponents will never have her as an easy pushover.
"I'm aggressive...I'm a fighter", she had mentioned after her match with Wang. The second set Kenin was feisty, determined and literally bashed balls over the net at Wang who was used to her opponent's mantra and kept fighting.
They had leveled the games back and forth tieing at 5-all, but a spark was lit in Kenin's hands as she sprayed out winners all over the court, its corners, slicing and drop shotting. Everything was seeming to work as she won the second set 7-5.
The sets were leveled at one-all and who would win the decider? They had to be tough mentally and physically to stay focused and get the job done. Both had their share of medical timeouts. Wang and then Kenin with a tightened thigh muscle and lower back but it all ended when they stepped back onto the court.
Kenin took the aggressor part reeling off 3 games as Wang kept blasting returns at all angles with Kenin keeping right up with her. The American had a bit of an edge, but not for long as unforced nervous errors crept up and the games were now 3-all.
Wang did all she could to win and even broke Kenin to lead 4-3. But the American trooper with the pink sun visor evened the score to 4-all. She played brilliant tennis with slices, accurate drop shots, moving her Chinese opponent around to find an open spot where she could plant a down-the-line or a put away volley.
Kenin's shots were all clicking up winners whereas Wang sprayed too many in the alley or far past the baseline, giving Kenin the set and match 1-6, 7-5, 6-4. This opening round was exhausting and afterwards Kenin was asked if she was too tired to sign some balls for the crowd.
"Never too tired for you guys...I love the crowd..." she said smiling as her sharp, piercing bluish-grey eyes looked around the stadium. She moves on to the second round, but hopefully her game will stay intact to give her opponent a fight and herself another victory.