2020 Australian Open Champion Sonya Kenin
The everyone John Wartime here weeks straight tennis podcast our guest this week so you can you probably know her from such previous works as twenty twenty Australian. Open my first major So you can is a few weeks removed from winning the first major of the decade. She was terrific at the Australian. Open winning seven matches beating mcgrew in the final end. The number one player in the World Ash Party before that in winning first major And Jake done she. is clearly as you'll see in this conversation ready for more of this is a fun conversation with a business player who is now in the top. Ten and now has really arrived. So here from Florida is so you can a little ape. Congratulations again thank you thank you. Was it everything you imagined? Yeah for sure it was It was incredible of best failing. Could ever ask for you. It sounds like it sounds like a cliche every player. Dreams of these things did it. Did it replicate your dream and it was like what you dreamt about. Yeah this is exactly what I was dreaming about I I always pictured you know what would it be if I would win a grand slam and it was better than what I dreamed about. It was just. It was so amazing I loved every two weeks. I've been best two weeks of my life. I love that you just use the past tense. You sounds like your. Are you done celebrating or is there still some glow I didn't know. Obviously this is something that's never going to be forgetting. It's always going You know we're never gonNA forget this. I'm leaving for Dubai tomorrow. So gotTA somehow get ready for that? I just played up and shirt off. Strong we had a little turtle the second date but then we managed to come back strong and take the win and See I feel like after that. You know I've been kind of like you know lock you know. Just forget about what happened and just move forward but Of course this is something you're never going to forget. I I it strikes me that one thing. That's weird about tennis is that everyone's gone by the time you play the final every most sports you go back in the locker room after you win is is full of people wishing you well and teammates in. Tennis. One hundred twenty six players have already left town like so. What was it like when you got to Fed Cup and it was the first time you're seeing your colleagues but now you're a grand slam champion. What what was it like when you arrived in Washington? I'm super excited. I had a Allie Texas easing Congratulations to see you back. Was texting me It was super exciting. I got there everyone was so welcoming. You know Sereno congratulated me such an item icon to me and Yes she was. So happy for me and cocoa cocoa golf all congratulating everyone congratulating me was such a positive atmosphere. Everyone was excited to see me there. Yeah I mean All the the doctor. That was there Physios trainer so It was Everything was was a welcoming environment. Everyone was super happy to see me. And of Course Kathy. Rinaldi was even more excited. You know she was five and Lisa Raymond I mean everyone was. Everyone was super happy for me into per excited looking back. How do you think he did it? Had you would team sets. Yeah I mean this is a compliment. I I think I've seen you play like I don't know if you play your best tennis would you? Would you agree with that During it I mean I feel like Beginning somehow get through it. You know I know the qualifier and she had already three rockies underhand voltages already used to the courts and everything but I just do her. Clay noticed try to be calming. Though 'cause I matches Grand Slams are never easy. It's obviously nerves But I feel like I've smashes once I started Playing I felt like I was playing a lot better and I started getting more confident and more comfortable and of course when I was getting closer to the finish line was a bit of nerve or wink but I try to give my best to manage you. Just take one step at a time and try not to overlook things and you know think about getting the title. You know But I think I did a great job. I think it was very. It was a big mental part for me those two weeks. It's not easy to you. Know her head in place and you getting a day off while you still cannot completely relaxed. Because you know you gotta get ready for the next match and I think there is and tax wise. I did a really good job and I handled everything well and of course there was a bit of pressure as each matches went close to finish line. But I try to handle it in the best way I can I still I feel like everyone is still trying to figure out. What makes you compete so well and late in that second set of the final? When you just decided you weren't going to miss balls. The that won the one game just seemed to break your opponent. Spirit D D I member. No I mean the match was right there for the taking and you took it. I mean I. I think that sort characterizes not just that match and not just the seven wins and Melvin. But that that's kind of your. Mo these days you just know how to win it. Is there anything you do for that? I mean is there any sort of training that doesn't have to do with striking the ball but just has to do with playing your best when it matters the most Well I'm very competitive. I never give up something that I've always had since I started playing and yeah I mean that's something that I really think you can really train train that. I think you can just work to build up on that and I feel like my career I build up on trying to play the best tennis At the at the important moments and yeah like you said for just things go my way against when Iza and of course she was really well. She's got some really great points and you know just didn't take some opportunities but When I came back I was ready to. You know to fight and I wasn't going to give up and yes I could said I felt like the two one game you know. Once it was three one I got an elite and I started getting more comfortable then in the third said that to all game. Everyone's talking about it because I played some five really crucial points I had to. I really had to work each flight though shoe. She didn't give it to me. She got someone falls back down. Love Forty nine game and Once I broke three to I felt the momentum really changed for me Yeah it was It was a tough match but like I said I hear some competitive. I hate losing and I. I love the game to win and I wasn't going to give up and yeah I'm just glad things worked out for me. What would you tell someone about winning their first major? I mean what what something about this whole experience you. You wish you knew that you would want to impart on on the next player. Who Wins a major? For the very first time. I would tell them just to enjoy every every moment. This doesn't happen so often. It's so hard to win it. it's it's Just enjoy take every moment And just enjoy. That's I would say that's the most important thing and then just obviously once he win it. It's let all your emotions out. I guess 'cause I'm sure there's a lot building up to that point and Yeah just I guess get you're GonNa get a bit spoiled after that. It's going to be just a lot of excitement so Yeah we'll just say. Just take each day step by step and don't don't look ahead and just Bring your best game whenever you need it. How did you get your emotions out Well actually each match. It was more first round. I you know got through it. I was not really emotions. I was just happy to get through it and second round. It started building up second and I didn't quite I was obviously happy then. Third round against the Shawshank. It's a lot of emotion top And then obviously throughout each match was more and more so I just felt like I'm you know playing each match and I felt like getting so close to the title but obviously didn't WanNa look at look at it like oh I'm GonNa be in the finals you know when I was in the third round. It's really hard to think about that. But obviously once I started when I played in the fourth round against cocoa when I wanted it was a lot of emotions because I was in my first quarterfinal of a grandmother. So it was super exciting and then Yogi Berra was more than seventy than than files. I mean just emotions. Build up as many as each run went. It's funny. I don't know if you remember this. I interviewed you on the court. After you won your first round match against an Lee shout out to the Philadelphia suburbs and leave from my number. You were like you were super thrilled and you seemed a little nervous and you sort of you said exactly what you just said. Which is I was just happy to get through that. And she was already had played some matches so I had to sort out you and I talked to after you won. I think the Sammy's and you're much more relaxed. After winning your semifinal match it a major playing for your first final were after winning in the first route the second round against I mean it was. It was It was when he was Tough conditions who recited. Feel like I played my best tennis but I was of course really hard to get through that one it's It's not easy when you're not able to play the way you WanNa play unless it's windy plus I was playing a A young opponent you know who just had four matches under her belt so Obviously different nerves in different pressure coming from my side but then Yeah of course I mean it's different doctor. You know talking to you. Have to check it around or Talking to you after two semi finals playing first time. He's still my finals have grown so and I just felt like the nachos buildup and I played better. I found my on my game and just got a lot of confidence. So that's why I was excited. I think after talking to you after I feel like casual fans especially sort of we characterize tennis players like there's like a one sentence definition right so it's like the William's sister used to be L. The the sisters with you know the the sisters from Los Angeles with with the father and another player. She used to be a bad trainer and now she got into shape and Rafa dollars the crazy kid from the Spanish island with the parachute with the pirate pants. I feel like until we know players better. There's very simpler. We sort of have the simple shorthand than yours. Yours seems to me to be the kid who when she was little got to play with all the with all the celebrities. You're sort of the one sentences we've all seen you with with Andy Roddick cloisters corner. Cova a are you comfortable with that and be. What else should people know about you on that? I haven't thought about what people are thinking but yeah I mean I'm everyone knows about everyone knows about that. You know the Egos with Kim and and the So and I guess people should know that I'm very furious. I think that's just that she summit up I never give up. I'M GONNA fight and if you'RE GONNA you're GonNa Really GonNa have to play some really good tennis to me and other than that. I Love Wing Love. I love this game and This is everything to me. My Love hearing player. Say that. That's t tell me if I'm wrong here but I also get the feeling that you're okay being a little more famous. You're you're okay with some of the added responsibilities that you seem to know we're gonNA come your way now that you've won a major. You're you're sort of ready for this. Might do you buy yeah? I was born ready. I really wanted to get to this position Obviously it's more responsible more responsibilities though people know about me and people are probably obviously right now expecting me to keep doing which obviously. I WANNA keep doing it. Regardless of what happened would have still kept doing that. But I mean obviously more responsibilities like I said but I feel like during dot com You know coming up to a strategy on how long flight in wasn't easy to adjust at a time going and I was put first match to play on Friday. So were you know I think like I knew I just wanted? I knew I wanted to just keep the momentum going into to starbucks strong and yeah I played some really good tennis and everyone was just a really happy and they were really happy to see that I would love to ask him this personally. But I I imagine your father bus. Just be over the moon. He's super excited and proud. We also saw Dinara Safina in your In in your section as well what? What's yes I mean? I don't know the answer to this. What what's what's your relationship with their Evans asked her there. And everyone's asked me there. it's funny. I mean it's nothing got nothing. Just we're good friends we tax and everything and she was there and I asked her if she wants to come and support and Just she's just a friend she just came to support me and I knew that she has a lot of experience and She gave me some good tips before the match. You know. Try to just give me from her experience so rather not at the. It's nothing There's nothing to do. We're just friends came to support me and I was really happy. That she was there and Yeah just really happy for that. Did reassure me you. You're right right away to Fed Cup. Now you're going to do by it. Sounds like you're still very hungry. Reassure me you you. You celebrate it a little bit. Yeah we celebrated right after the match and we went to Some ball to thirty you know And my agent Ugo run for. Yeah we celebrate down. Yeah I mean I treat myself a little bit also after when I came back home so yeah I mean Celebrations are always. GonNa be there. He's always going to be very nothing's we're GONNA change. No one can ever take that away and take that away from me or from US but Right now getting ready for Dubai. It came off a Great Week. Griffey Days Inside Cup. We got the West so super excited interest excited to keep going forward for this year and Ford and I know you talk about to what extent this is a priority but this this win certainly puts you in very good shape to go to Tokyo for the Twenty Twenty Olympics this summer. Yeah yes I always had my own that this year I I wanna go into Tokyo. Which of the honor just to play in the Olympics and also. We shouldn't van and try not to think about that. When I was playing in Australia I tried to stick. One wants a better time but after I was told That it's can get in for Tokyo so I think it's great. It's super exciting and I mean it's just a lot of terms before Tokyo to You. Know coming up but Super excited for you like to stealing the rating. The you're the reigning Grand Slam champion. You I I get the feeling you like this. You like the status. Yeah of course it's It's amazing I've worked with and this is There's no better tournament to win a Grand Slam. It's you know for tournaments a year. It's very prestigious that This is something that I've always wanted to win. Are we going to you know to the have my name on the beautiful trophy? So which is just an honor. And it's the you know forever going to be there so Of course Cigarette slammed it like I said. There's nothing better to win a grand slam and it's just an honor to say. I love the fact that you're already back to work that you're not you're not South Beach Drinking out of your trophy at four in the morning. They'll tell it's like you're you're you're back to work to go in another one of these. Yes yes I'm back to work This is not an end for me. Of course going to try to move forward but Yeah I'm looking on. This is like I said not. Then I'm GonNa keep going forward and try to have any more great results from great attitude Thanks this was. It's always a pleasure talking but our time is a major champion so congrats on that. Thank you so much. Thank you thank Sonya Take Care Thank you take care bye all right. Thanks to Sonia Kenan I stopping by and Thanks Jamie opening you. In her outstanding producer Damien Santi Team is plenty. We spoke with Sonia. Kenan Hunter maybe nine months ago. It wasn't that long ago not that long ago She was an ambitious upstart. Very pleasant person to talk to you but she was not a major champion now. I think she's really redefined herself and I feel like her. Ambition has not been blunted if anything. It's it's kind of in sharpened. But she did seem to say nobody can take this away from me. I was looking at the W. T. A. Website Can prove them wrong. Which seems to be sort of a an emo that The obligatory reference to the doubters who are out there. I don't know if that really exists with her. I I just think she's a player who doesn't necessarily have big weapons and she's not going to serve anyone off the court and she's not fifteen years old and she's thirty eight years old but she's a really really good tennis player and just as important a really really good fighter and now she's the reigning champion. Yeah it's it's pretty incredible. We talked about it but we Last time she was on the podcast was may twenty nineteen so I mean not that long ago you know but when we talked with her one of the first things that we mentioned or that you you said to. Her was the headline from two thousand seventeen junior champion. Sophia Kenan to play Maria Sharapova. And I think we had a lengthy conversation with her about her third round match against Sharipova her idol. Right and we we you know had all everything from her having a Russian background and all these parallels Sharipova and how it was amazing to be on that stage playing her idol and You know she was number thirty seven at the time so fast forward to now and it's such an incredible Thing to think about how much has changed and Just hearing her talk she's so matter of fact she's all business and she's just like I want a major here. I am a little celebration but moving onto the next thing. She never doubted it. And I think she really enjoys the competition the competitive nature of everything. The the the heard what you said about other the other girls are going to have to know. They're gonNA have to work really hard to beat me good for you. I think you're totally right. I mean I'm just thinking man this this sport you know nine months ago The Big Story. Line is you wants plagiarized Maria Sharapova. And now your top ten player is what a major in. You're going to the Olympics. I I also think she is a really really good mix of business like you know. She's not I mean there are different players who have won majors and they are still celebrating today amid sort of mission accomplished and now I can check that box and go live happily ever after. Data's not you know that's not Sonja Kennan But she's also she's cool like she's accessible. She's I think she wants to be out there. I think she's she didn't really bite when I asked her that. But you know she's happy to jump call and do a podcast early in the morning when she doesn't have to I don't think she minds being out there and I don't think she mind this blast of celebrity. That's GONNA come a lot of players really shy from that. Look I just signed up to be a tennis player and hit balls and win matches. I don't want to have to deal with everything else. I think she's really ready to step up her profile but I also don't think she's seeking that out right. I think there's a difference there I think she's. It's just part of her personality. She's she's feisty she's she's fighting for what she wants and she's you know she's willing to do what it takes. And she knows that that is part of it and I think she's willing to do it and she's she's kind of like yeah again. She's spar it's part of the is part of the business part of the game. She's willing to do it all and I think it's all she's ready to be number one and she wants to be number one and I think that's a really healthy mix of on the one hand. She's very ambitious and is not embarrassed about that. She doesn't hold back on expressing her ambition but she also sort of understands that. There's more to this job than than just winning matches so she's not going to suddenly pivot and become an instagram star and seek seek out. Sports illustrated personnel asking about Super BOWL PARTIES IN SWIMSUIT ISSUES. But the flip side is that you know she also realizes that. Yeah they're going to be some additional pressures and I'm ready for that I also I mean sh I get the feeling. She's sick of talking about it but I. I really think there's something there. I don't know if you saw this. So she we played that video With Andy Roddick which. He's five years old that she's telling Tennis Channel. She knows how to return. Andy Roddick serve And now there are others. Yes she's with Kim Clijsters. And she's classes braiding her hair she's meeting Annakournakova. And it's kind of become this talking point that she not not unreasonably seems to have gotten tired of but I do think there's something to that that when you're a kid in you see these players interact with these players. And they're not just people you see on Youtube or they're not just what my generation would say posters. Hang on your wall kids. Still kids still posters sidebar. I think it's still thing I mean. Oh No But point being when you actually have interactions with these athletes. Wouldn't Jean King Say You know you have to do to be it. I think that really there's something there I mean I think We talked about this with Robbie. Koenig in going South Africa. I think seeing athletes up close in person really does something to kids. I think it's a really formative experience. I think it's one reason why all these tournaments leaving the United States have a really harmful effect on American tennis. It's not just at the stars. Don't come from here but it's when the action isn't here when you can't be a ball kid when you can't be. Gilg asking for autographs outside the practice court. I think that has a really harmful effect. The flip side is when you do have these interactions like Kenan did. It's a big deal when you're six years old and you're deciding what sport to play Definitely I mean you have to see see to believe it but there's also something I think You know about the videos you talk about with. Kenan is that she saw these these players and she you know had to just interact with them as normal as she would with anyone else. She came across at a young age so now it seems like that could play into her. Having this kind of nonchalant attitude about yeah I want a major just like maybe. She was a little kid. Yeah oh I'm I'm getting my hair braided by You know grandma who I now could in theory play against the one of these days just I I also feel like tennis bill. Enter maybe this sports. In general sort of builds in these these scripts and these story lines. So it's all great via cannons climbing the ladder. But can she make a dent in a major? And she beat Serena Williams at the French Open. That was pretty good and now here. She is eight months later and she's winning the Australian Open. She's a major champion. Her name is going to be on that wall. And if you saw the board when players walked out to the cord and you walk by Martina Navratilova and Steffi and Monica Seles and federal at all. So you can't. His name is is going to be there But tennis builds in these the scrap building this talking points almost like wwe so the next stage is going to become a will. She have a target on her back. Now she's a player to be beaten. Alyce respond to that in a can. She avoid the dreaded fate of the one hit wonder and the next challenge. Is I'm I'm not an Ostapenko? I'm not one of these one offs and can stay healthy. Can't you stay home? We've seen that with You know maybe not necessarily major winners but younger players who have quickly come up and you know one titles and there's a US Open champion. Who DID NOT POST FOR For Australia exactly I think that's a really good point. what is her level of. I mean I I do think that she might benefit from having the game. She has on the health department that She is not someone. That's you'll lumbering around the court. She's not someone who has one of those delicate physiques But I think that I think that's an interesting point to. How will she keep herself healthy? And they're gonNA be opportunities to play exhibitions now and they're gonNA play doubles in. Australia's you're gonNA keep playing doubles and we talk about this across the board but when you start winning you're playing more matches your tournaments are longer your in all of these places. Extend beyond what you're used to perhaps You know you're saying into the second week or you're you're staying through the weekend and all the sudden that affects your schedule when that happens over the course of two three four five six weeks so You know it's something just to think about in terms of managing the overall the health and I mean she's you know flying to Dubai and then where's she going next. And how is that playing into how she how her body's recovering feel like we don't talk about enough? I mean I've going to Australia and I have to go to Japan and a few days in I am wrecked. I mean my my sleep is all messed up by. I mean it's just I don't feel like myself when you hear that and yeah I mean. He's probably flying candidates probably flying in luxury in staying. He's no he's not staying at The Ramada Inn But when the dollar is going from the Australian Open to the Middle East play exhibition to South Africa than back to my Orca. I mean that takes a toll on anyone in I feel like we don't talk about that enough that just the sheer rigors of travel that even you know so new cannon is flying whatever whatever the tickets twelve hour time difference or twenty hours the. She's getting from Melbourne to the Seattle suburbs to Florida to do by and not to mention on top of that. She's carrying an emotional weight. Not In a bad way. But you know we we talk about. Oh you know if something happens or you're you're you suffer a loss. Whatever it is but this. This is an emotional thing for her. And it's something that you know she's GonNa wake up in the morning and still feel that I mean it's it's a happy happy told but It was a huge marker in her. This transformational moment in her life. And that's a really good point. And you're dealing with the emotions of that and in this case Your per per father involved and there is A. There's financial the financial consulates all this. I mean there's a lot going on apart from jet lag and travel and security lines in. I think sometimes we you know. We hear that a player is sick or where we hear give. Dominic team has has this cold. He's having a hard time shaking Anyone that's traveled internationally can and then and then try to go back to work soon. Thereafter can probably relate to that but No I think You know if you've said before the tournament Novak Djokovic is GonNa Win Number Eight. I think most people say sounds about right. And if you'd said so you can is GonNa win. Number one on the women's side people would say what and then you'd say I don't know why why not I mean she. She knows how to win. Joey played joined to play one draw. Here's your way into play one seeded player but that's a little misleading. Because in that was cocoa gov coming off defeat of the defending champion and a lot in that match ms or boats from South Florida Kenan Gov and nobody wants to lose to the fifteen year old And then he played on Jabber sort of a tricky opponent but candidly not not the worst quarterfinal opponent of Major. Then she had to play Ash. Bharti who not only was the number one ranked player in the world number-one seed but also was the hometown favourite act and then with everything on the line. She had to play a player. Who's considerably older? Who had two majors in Mugo so And it was interesting to hear her talk about you. Know she went through the different absent flows of the match and how she said You know she gave all the credit to agree with that that she could you know but she kind of said that that she never. She never explained that she was like you know. Nervous or that across the net. That person was you know. She's unflappable in that situation. You could even tell when she was recounting it. She was just kind of like yeah and I went down and when it was this I actually just like clear. Correct me when I said second round instead of I. She knew right away. What round We'd spoken Yes she's she's all I would say she's all business but but I feel like there's also a part of her that sort of bring it on. I'll do your interviews bringing on I'll endorser product. I mean I feel like there's a very nice balance here again between someone who is nakedly ambitious in the best possible way but also kind of doesn't mind the celebrity in the stardom that she doesn't crave it. She's not going to go after it but if it comes her way she's she's all right. You know there. There are a lot of players who I get. The feeling wouldn't be thrilled to do it off season early morning. Podcast Know two weeks after they WANNA major so anyway Yea take away gay Safia Cannon. You think she Thinks she sticks with feel for the rest of the year. I don't know I think they're going to be a lot of sort of interesting Like they're going to be a lot of interesting offers that come her way and you know I mean I. She's she's twenty one years old. She's in the top ten Coach by her father. Which which is interesting another validation. You know I think a lot of people in tennis. At least what I was starting with. Sorta roll their eyes when the parents would be the coaches and the track record honestly wasn't great. I Mean Creek Chris Evert. It's the example pointed to but Chris Evert's father knew what he was talking. I mean Chris Evert's father was about if I tennis coach I I think sometimes their skepticism when parents or the coaches but I think more and more you're seeing some real success there and maybe Alex Kennan Y You know you you look his history and there may not be much there but he clearly knows how to motivate his daughter and that can go a long way as we've seen yet again. I mean I think maybe small sample size but we saw Caroline Wozniacki. What did she say when she retired from tennis? I'm happy I stuck with my father. As my coach I think More and more supporting evidence. There you got to travel the world than the on court with someone who understands what makes you tick and Chuck another one up for the for the family. Coaching connection. Yeah we we talked about this with soccer but the the sponsorships and like you said a lot of offers coming. Her way is just yet another thing that she's going to have to turn around and digest as she comes off this meter so it'd be really interesting to see how she Affairs this spring. Yeah exactly and I do think in some ways. Australia's probably the best for that that. It's you know it feels like a galaxy galaxy far away in the tour picks up again If if we're talking about giving yourself some time to adjust to this new reality Australia I suspect is probably the best the best tournament for that but no one will be to see where it goes from here and she'll show up at Indian wells and she'll walk into that locker room for the first and again I I. It's funny with tennis when you win. A major and you walk into that locker room and sometimes it's it's you and a couple of mixed doubles players and some juniors. It's a very strange thing where everyone is left town. So when you get to that I that next event that's when you get a lot of the the back there the the passing at that point. You probably couldn't get away with it a little bit before. But that's that's when meet your peers All right so thank you too. Sonya Ken thank you to Jamie. Thanks thanks everyone listening. That will That will do it for this week. against subscribe. Leave a review. Get this podcast. Wherever find podcast are sold We'll have another one in seven days belt this week worth breath.