PARIS, France - No.4 seed Sofia Kenin had to come back from a set down against France’s Fiona Ferro to book her spot into the Roland Garros quarterfinals for the first time.
The reigning Australian Open champion had to shake off a sluggish start as she dropped six games in a row in the opening set to the inspired Ferro, who rallied the sparse but passionate crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier.
But Kenin completed the turnaround in emphatic fashion, dropping only three more games from a set down en route to a 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory to reach her third quarterfinal of the season - and second career Grand Slam final eight.
“I was just super proud of myself,” Kenin said, after shedding tears in celebration of the win. “Yes, there was a lot of emotions. I was just super happy that I won. Like, the crowd wasn't the best, which is understandable, but still I wish it would have been a little bit different.
“I'm like super happy that I'm in the quarters. I usually don't play really good on clay. In the past in juniors, I really hated the clay. Last year I started to like it for the first time.
“I'm just super proud of myself. I feel like I'm playing really well.”
The last French player left standing in the draw, Ferro was coming in hot on an 18-match winning streak, including a run to the title at the Palermo Open. She kicked off her breakthrough run in Paris with a second-round upset over No.14 seed Elena Rybakina and won an epic clash against Patricia Maria Tig 7-6(7), 4-6, 6-0 to book her clash with Kenin.
The American, on the other hand, struggled on clay since the season’s restart, and recorded a lopsided defeat to Victoria Azarenka in her first round in Rome, 6-0, 6-0. But she bounced back strongly in Paris, where she’d reached the fourth round last year with a victory over Serena Williams.
“I feel like last year I started to really like the clay after my great run,” she reflected. “I played Serena. It was obviously a lot of emotions as well there. Yeah, after that I started to really like the clay.
“I knew what to expect. It's a lot of sliding, it's very physical. I just tried to adjust my game to it. I feel like as each match went, I'm more and more comfortable on the clay.”
She carried that renewed confidence into her fourth round clash against Ferro, quickly opening up a 2-0 lead and holding break points to make it 3-0. But Ferro held firm and thrilled home fans as she fought her way into the set, breaking to make it 2-2.
Ferro found another level as she shut out Kenin, exploiting her American opponent’s movement on the surface with smart drop shots to reel off the next four games in a row, 6-2.
Kenin kept the French crowd quiet as she opened the second set with another break to take an early lead. The No.4 seed dialed up the aggression as she found her rhythm, and was able to keep the pressure on the Ferro serve with her signature backhand down-the-line returns. She earned a double break to lead 5-1, and served out the second set 6-2 to send them into a decider.
Kenin was in full control in the final set as she took the ball early and stayed aggressive, opening up a double break, 4-0 lead. The American fired 39 winners in total during the match, with 29 of those coming in the last two sets as she allowed Ferro just one game en route to a 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 turnaround victory.
No.4 seed Kenin awaits the winner between No.30 seed Ons Jabeur and her fellow American Danielle Collins in the quarterfinals. Their match was rescheduled for tomorrow due to rain.
“I really hope I can keep playing the way I'm playing or better,” Kenin said. “I'm deep in the tournament. I feel like I have to step up my game because obviously I'm going to play tough opponents. We're all playing well. It's going to be a tough match.
“But, yeah, I guess fingers crossed for the next round.”