She'd put her head down and became emotional when she wasn't able to win the tie off at her maiden U.S. Fed Cup Final last year. The emotions were spilling over for Sofia Kenin at the 2018 Fed Cup. She was consoled by teammates and Captain Kathy Rinaldi alike as the Czech Republic won the title.
"The team atmosphere was incredible...We did not get the result that we wanted, but nobody can't say that we didn't leave it all out there..." Rinaldi had said. But today there's a different Sofia Kenin brewing.
She has acquired many confidence builders in this 2019 season. Kenin had made up for the loss of matches at last year's Fed Cup challenge with the Czech Republic and this year clinched the Fed Cup Playoff tie with Switzerland by winning over long-time player Timea Bacsinszky who made too many unforced errors giving the game to Sofia who won in straight sets.
The 20-year-old told the Fed Cup media "I mean I'm like speechless as it's my first win in Fed Cup." It was her substituting for Madison Keys that brought forth the win. Kenin had truly made up for her lackluster performance of the year before and her teammates swarmed around her giving her love and acceptance.
"It was her time to shine today and she clinched it, and I couldn't be more proud of that young lady," the U.S. Captain Kathy Rinaldi said to the Fed Cup media. It was also her time to shine throughout the year as Kenin's defeat of many top 20 players elevated her play performance where she started her ranking at no.
48 at the beginning of the season. She's won three titles: Hobart, Mallorca and Guangzhou. She's now ranked no. 12th in the world and has been voted as the most improved player of the year in 2019. She had extraordinary wins with the victory over no.
1 in the world, Ashleigh Barty at the 2nd round of the Rogers Cup this year. "I'm just really tired, to be honest. Ashleigh's such a tough player, it was a tough match and I'm just happy to pull through," Kenin said with a big grin after her top player defeat.
She knew her skills and talent were also coming together when she won over Serena Williams at the 3rd round of the French Open. The match was nearly 90 minutes and it was the first time Serena has lost in the first week of any slam since 2014 at Wimbledon.
Williams came into the match with a few difficult tangibles than Kenin anyway. For one, she is 17 years older and wasn't of the healthiest, dealing with a previously sprained ankle and left knee injury. She hadn't much preparation having also only played one clay match.
There were wins over Bianca Andreescu at the Mexican Open, Naomi Osaka in Cincinnati and Garbine Muguruza at the China Open along with so many other surprising victories. But the last title won for Kenin was over Sam Stosur at Guangzhou.
"I think I'm having a good season. I'm playing well. I'm proud of myself. I've had a lot of matches. I'm playing with confidence and playing the best players in the world...I'm 12 and it's a good accomplishment but I have higher standards for next year," Kenin smiled and explained.
What has transpired between then and now was many a gutsy performance for the sun-visored spunky player. She learned by her struggling Fed Cup plays and has extended her performance qualities. She knows that finding that winning groove is finally taking effect and she takes nothing for granted.
This 2020 season may be a major one for Kenin but she's aware of burnout and says "a lot of fitness of course and I've gotta take like a week off or something...I'm not gonna rush to go back on the court."
Sofia Kenin is finding her way of playing good tennis and with winning over the big players, she's making the journey into the new season with a lot of positives and tons of confidence to stay consistent and capture more titles.