The Australian Open feels a long time ago and, given the circumstances, it has been hard to think about that at all with Covid-19 and everything that has been going on. Normally after winning a Grand Slam, you would play lots of tournaments and see all your fans, which would have been nice. But there have not been any tournaments and there have not been any fans, so it has been really different.
I have always imagined winning a Grand Slam and it was a dream come true when it happened in Australia. I have worked so hard to make this happen. It is a weight off my shoulders because there are a lot of players who have had lots of success but have not won a Slam. I have always believed in myself, but this really proves to me that I am at the highest level and am able to play with the best players in the world. People now know that I am able to get deep in tournaments and they will be keeping an eye on me. I’m just going to keep doing my best and try to get deep again in this Slam.
I’m the second seed for this US Open, which is crazy to think about! I’m not keeping track of who is withdrawing or who is playing; it is very unfortunate that some players cannot participate this time. I wish that everyone could play, but it does not change my perspective at all: this is a Grand Slam and anyone can win it. There could be lots of upsets so anything could happen, but I like the competition of taking on the best players, so I wish that everyone could have been able to play.
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Normally we would have the media and the fans here at Flushing Meadows, but it is just the players. Only one person in your team can come to the site with you – which in my case is my dad. Everything is just so private! The USTA have made everything really special this year with the special suites in Arthur Ashe Stadium being reserved for the seeds. So we can chill over there, my dad and I, watching TV, watching other matches, and it’s a very nice view! We can also order food so we can stay away from lots of other people. I think it is a really nice feature that they have provided.
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We are all wearing masks, we are all social distancing, so the world has really changed, but I’m just waiting for everything to go back to normal and everyone is feeling the same. We all just want to see our fans again and get everything back to how it was. Normally it is really loud at the US Open, but inside Ashe this time it is very quiet - it’s like a zombie town!
It is all very different, but this is just what we all have to do, and I’m just really glad that we can come and compete and play. We haven’t been able to play for a while and I’m just so happy that this Grand Slam is happening. I really enjoy the US Open and want it to happen even if it is going to be very different. They are still real matches and you are still able to compete, and that is something that I have really missed since the Australian Open.
It does definitely feel like we are able to give something to the fans at home by playing in the US Open at this time. They obviously wish they could be with us at Flushing Meadows in person, but it will still be nice for everyone to watch some Grand Slam tennis at last. Although they won’t be able to give me support around the court, hopefully they can still cheer for me at home. I want my fans to know that I will be so happy to see them when we are all allowed to be back together, and I will be even happier than before because I have not seen them for a while! Yes, that will be really exciting.
My personal message to fans out there ready to watch the tennis from home is: stay healthy first and foremost, follow all the protocols and just wait for everything to get back to normal because everything will be just fine in the end. You can all be back out on the courts watching us soon, and we as players are all going to be so happy to see you again and will be waiting with open arms!
By Sofia Kenin