November 25, 2023

Open Court


INDIAN WELLS – The introductions for Thursday’s night session match at Indian Wells were a little … awkward.

Basically: 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin vs. 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens.

Both unseeded, with Kenin in on a wild card. Both fallen on tougher times. Stephens’s ranking is at No. 48 and until two smaller events in Mexico the last two weeks, she had been 0-for-the-season.

Kenin’s doubles ranking of No. 149 is actually the default on her WTA Tour page; her singles ranking is currently No. 170. And even that is a good jump; since she dropped down to No. 426 last July, she has been back in the top 200 only for the last two weeks.

She has played some good tennis at times. She’s also had some pretty tough early opponents in draws, as well.

Kenin lost five straight first rounds early in 2022 and from March through early August, she was off the Tour. It was a quick falloff into the abyss.

She has used her allowed protected rankings at Grand Slams. And she has gone through the last year or so on a combination of her protected ranking and plentiful wild cards.

But that can’t last forever, even as her tennis seems to be getting back on track.

New Coach in the House

At Indian Wells and likely in Miami, Kenin has experienced WTA coach Michael Joyce on the team.

The two have known each other for a long time, so it wasn’t like strangers getting to know each other.

But her father and longtime coach Alex Kenin is also on hand. And as long as that dynamic remains, it will be a pretty big challenge to get back on track.

Here’s what the gang looked like on the practice court earlier this week.

Papa actually seemed to be in a smiley mood, where most of the time whether he’s on the court or sitting courtside watching, he alternates between morosity and despair.

Making a run in the desert would be a nice way to come into her “home” 1000 in Miami. The Hard Rock Stadium is just a stone’s throw from her family’s home. But she’s only ever won two main-draw matches in Indian Wells, ever.

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