PARIS, France - Reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin continued showing off her fighting spirit at the French Open, rallying from a set down to defeat Ana Bogdan, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
"During the match I just try to put the emotions aside," Kenin said in post-match press. "I don't have time to think about my emotions. I have to play one point at a time.
"These two matches have been quite tough. I felt like I couldn't find my rhythm in both of them and found a way at the end, so I'll take it."
The No.4 seed was three games from defeat in the second set, but reeled off nine of the final 11 games of the match to outlast the unseeded Romanian after one hour and 51 minutes beneath the Court Philippe-Chatrier roof.
Bogdan won their only previous meeting back in 2018, in the final round of Coupe Rogers qualifying; since then, Kenin has risen among the game's best with a run to the 2019 French Open fourth round - shocking 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams en route - and a maiden major title in Melbourne back in January.
Since the tour has resumed, the American, who won her second title of 2020 at the inaugural Open 6ème Sens - Métropole de Lyon, has sometimes struggled with rhythm, taking first round losses at the Western & Southern Open and Internazionali BNL d'Italia to Alizé Cornet and Victoria Azarenka, respectively, and needed three sets to dispatch Russian Liudmilla Samsonova on Tuesday.
Early errors indeed took Kenin down an early break, but the No.4 seed soon steadied to level the set, landing a deft dropshot to hold for two games apiece.
Bogdan, who reached the third round of the Australian Open and cracked the Top 100 for the first time in 2018, stayed with her higher-ranked opposition as she took a 0-40 lead and broke serve at her third opportunity to find herself serving for the first set.
Up another fast 40-0, the Romanian converted her second set point after Kenin saved the first with a return winner, ending the 36-minute set with a well-timed first ace.
"The first set just didn't go my way. I couldn't find my rhythm. She was playing really well. I knew I needed to somehow change my game or else I'm going to be out. Did not want that, definitely."
In danger of losing a fourth straight game, Kenin - who made 16 unforced errors in the first set to Bogdan's four - saved a pair of break points to open the second set, holding serve with a thudding backhand up the line.
An exchange of love breaks saw Kenin lose a 3-1 lead but two similarly quick holds kept the set on serve as the No.4 seed aimed to force a deciding set. Outfoxing Bogdan with a solid backhand pass, the 21-year-old soon nabbed a crucial break and and pair of set points in the very next game, leveling the contest with a service winner.
"I just felt like I was putting more balls in the second and third set, playing more aggressive and playing the way I wanted to play. She was playing really well and I knew I needed to just fight in order to win."
Brimming with confidence early in the decider, she roared ahead two breaks, striking five winners and no errors in the first three games. Bogdan got on the board by getting one of the breaks back, but Kenin was undeterred, breaking again with more relentless hitting to move ahead 5-1.
Bogdan made a brave last stand, saving three match points in a row to trigger the first extended game of the set, battling through four deuces to put the pressure back on Kenin, earning three break points as she served for the match.
Kenin responded with a champion's mettle, saving all three and earning a fourth match point that she ultimately converted with a booming forehand putaway.
In all, it was an even stat sheet for the Australian Open champion, who struck 34 winners and 35 unforced errors - nearly half of latter coming in the first set - and converted six of 10 break point opportunities while winning just under half of all points played on return. Bogdan impressed throughout, but will likely rue the chances missed late in the second and third sets, ending with 20 winners and 23 unforced errors.
Standing between her and a spot in the second week is either Romanian qualifier Irina Bara, who was leading 2015 quarterfinalist Alison Van Uytvanck 6-1, 4-0 when the Belgian was forced to retire.