PARIS, France – Sofia Kenin is into her second Grand Slam final of 2020 after overcoming No.7 seed Petra Kvitova, 6-4, 7-5 at Roland Garros.
The Australian Open champion had lost both her previous meetings with the Czech – including a heavy loss in Madrid last year on clay – but came through on this occasion in one hour 45 minutes.
The 21-year-old, who boasts a 16-1 winning record in majors this year, avoided the need for a deciding set, having shown something of a penchant for going all the way, doing so in four of her five previous matches.
She also maintained her startling record at the cutting edge of tournaments, with six titles from the last eight she has made the semis in, and showed remarkable efficiency, claiming four of her five break points while fending off 10 of 12 she faced.
Although Kvitova, who was playing in her first French Open semifinal since 2012, eased to the opening game of the match, the early stages of the opening set were dictated by Kenin, who gained sufficient momentum to seal the frame. In a hard-fought second, Kenin failed first time around when serving for the match, but completed the job given another opportunity.
“She’s such a tough player, she’s got a great aggressive game and such a big serve. I knew I had to bring my ‘A’ game in order to win,” she said.
“I’m super proud of myself, it was a great match, and I’m super happy.”
Kenin bounced back from losing the opening game to love in formidable style, securing four successive games, aided by some unusual misses from the opposite end of the court. She gained momentum until the middle part of the set, peaking with a return winner that helped push her 4-1 clear.
The response of Kvitova was a positive one when faced with this adversity. On the Kenin serve, she raced 0-40 clear, and though she missed the first two points, an extraordinary rally saw her seal the break after a ball popped off the net cord and left her with a simple winner when it seemed she had been passed.
This set up a thrilling climax to the frame, with Kvitova apparently in the ascendancy but unable to claim the break that was required to save it.
Although Kenin won a mere 14% of points on her second serve, she found her first delivery enough to get over the line after 36 minutes.
Where the first set had moved along at a brisk pace, the second was far tighter, with more extended games.
Kvitova was the first to come under pressure and greeted her hold in the third game with a roar, but the next time she was asked to deliver, she was broken. On the second deuce, she netted and was subsequently worked out of position by Kenin, who hooked the ball into the open court as she harried to run down an all-or-nothing shot from the 30-year-old.
Having squandered five break points previously in the set, Kvitova successfully stepped up as Kenin served for the match, but in the following game her own delivery wobbled, presenting her rival with a second chance.
This time the WTA World No.6 was not to be denied, prevailing in a lengthy game in which she fought back from break point down.
Kenin, who has won two titles this year, will tackle Poland’s Iga Swiatek in Saturday’s showpiece as she seeks to add to her haul.
“I’ve already done it in Australia,” she said, considering Saturday’s showpiece. “I’ve had tough matches these past two weeks and I’m so excited to be in the final. It’s incredible. I’m going to enjoy this moment today and get ready for the final tomorrow.
“We played in juniors in the French Open. It was a close one. I’m going to prepare for the final and I’m going to do my best.”