LYON, France - Top seed Sofia Kenin took the long way to her first semifinal since winning her maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open last month on Friday at the Open 6 ème Sens – Métropole de Lyon with a 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-2 victory over France's Oceane Dodin.
After saving a match point to beat Romanian qualifier Jaqueline Cristian in Thursday's second round, Kenin had a similarly dramatic path through to the final four, ultimately needing nearly two hours to advance past the French favorite after building a 6-1, 5-2 lead.
"It was still not perfect today, but I definitely feel like I found my rhythm. I was playing well, dictating well," Kenin said after the match.
"It was a bit of a strange match. I was up, and somehow managed to not close it out there, but overall, I think it was a good match. I played some good tennis, some good points, and I'm happy with the way that I found my rhythm after yesterday.
"I felt pretty good in the first round - still not 100 percent, but I still got the win - and I would say that today was my best game [here so far]."
Kenin never lost serve, and saved the lone break point that she faced in the first set, to put herself in command through little more than an hour on court.
However, that edge was erased thanks to some bold play from the big-hitting Lille native, as she won three straight games and never allowed Kenin to even reach match point.
"She was playing well. I started off the second set pretty strong, but I knew she's a big hitter," Kenin said. "I didn't expect her to play like that, but I thought it was close. She started going for her shots.
"She's a tough player, a good player, and a few points here and there didn't go my way. In the tiebreak, I started off strong again... but I managed to battle back and fight through."
It appeared that the World No.5 was set to finish the match in two as she rebounded strongly in the face of adversity, using her elite counter-punching skills to win five of the first six points of the ensuing tiebreak.
However, the 23-year-old Frenchwoman stayed brave, and with the fervent support of the French fans behind her, won six straight points to set the match to a decider.
"I felt a little tight. I made two unforced errors, and then she was serving," Kenin reflected. "She started serving way better, and I had to change my positions to not let her keep acing me. She just played some big points, and the momentum shifted on her side."
"I didn't start off the third so well. I was down 1-0 pretty quickly, but I managed to somehow keep her... so she wouldn't come back again."
Nonetheless, Kenin righted the ship in the final set to ultimately seal victory, as she was afforded several opportunities to break thanks in part to Dodin landing only 38 percent of her first serves.
Kenin broke twice, and wrapped up victory on her second match point, after saving a break point in the final game in-between.
The American served well in the victory despite the blip in the second set, as she racked up 11 aces, landed 74 percent of her first serves, and won 73 percent of the points when she landed them.
"I think overall, I served pretty well. I had a good amount of aces. Usually, I don't serve that many aces," Kenin said.
"I knew I needed to somehow have a good first-serve percentage, because she has a big first serve, so I knew that I had to try and hold my serve. I managed to do that well overall, unfortunately not at 5-3 in the second, but I got the win in the end, so I'm just happy."
She tallied 36 winners and 33 unforced errors, while Dodin racked up 13 aces and 33 winners herself, along with 37 unforced errors.
The match was the third three-setter on quarterfinal day in Lyon, after Daria Kasatkina and Anna-Lena Friedsam recorded victories earlier in the day. No.7 seed and former Top 10 player Kasatkina advanced to her first semifinal since 2018 with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 over the always-dangerous Camila Giorgi, while Friedsam rallied from set down to beat No.8 seed Viktoria Kuzmova, 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-2.