Former World No.4 Sofia Kenin notched the first big upset win at Wimbledon after defeating World No.7 Coco Gauff 6-4, 4-6 in the first round. The victory is Kenin's 10th Top 10 win of her career.
"This means a lot," Kenin said. "I feel like this year has been not necessarily lows, but I feel like it's a comeback year for me. I feel like I started off the year well, I was playing well. I had a good feeling that this year would be a good year for me."
Three takeaways from Kenin's resurgent victory:
A confident Kenin is a dangerous Kenin: Currently ranked No.128, the 2020 Australian Open champion successfully navigated qualifying to make her 21st main-draw appearance. Kenin came into the match having split her previous two meetings against the 19-year-old American. Gauff won their most recent showdown, a 6-4, 6-4 win during her title run in Auckland this year.
Kenin took the court with the confidence of a player who already had three wins in qualifying, including a 6-3, 6-3 win over Taylor Townsend in the final round. Kenin struck first, breaking for a 2-1 lead, and confidently protected that lead to close out the opening set without facing a single break point on her serve.
"I knew that with three wins under her belt from qualies, I knew she was going to be playing with confidence," Gauff said afterwards. "It's always possible for somebody to get back to that level. She's still on the younger end of her career. I think with how she played today, it shouldn't be too long."
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Aggression remains the key for Gauff: Still just 19, Gauff continues the process of evolving her game towards more proactive aggression. Her court speed is already well among the game's best, but she has repeatedly acknowledged that defense alone will not win championships. That's precisely how she took Kenin to a third set.
Serving at 2-0, 40-40 in the second set, Gauff won a gritty point that saw her recover from a mid-point slip and fall to fire a forehand winner. She closed out the game with a clean ace -- one of 12 on the day -- to lead 3-0. After hitting just 8 winners in the opening set, Gauff more than doubled her tally in the second set, hitting 18.
But Gauff could not sustain that pressure. Kenin took advantage with consistent, clinical ball-striking. Serving to consolidate an early break, Kenin saved three break points to hold to 3-1. Gauff's best chance to break came on her third break point. With an opportunity for a backhand pass, Gauff misjudged her distance and lunged at the ball, giving Kenin a chance to put away an easy high volley.
"I think I didn't really put too much pressure on her," Gauff said, referring to her 33 unforced errors. "I felt like she could make a ball on the court, didn't have to be as good, and I wouldn't do much with it. That's what happened. If I played too passive, she has a game where she can hit aggressive shots, especially off the backhand side."
Gauff was one of four seeds to bow out on Day 1 at Wimbledon. Along with the No.7 seed, No.15 seed Liudmila Samsonova (l. Ana Bogdan), No.24 seed Zheng Qinwen (l. Katerina Siniakova) and No.31 seed Mayar Sherif (l. Rebeka Masarova) also suffered early ends to their grass season.
Kenin primed to break new ground: Having tallied her second Top 10 win of the season -- she also stunned Aryna Sablaenka in the second round of Rome -- Kenin is a win away from posting her best career result at Wimbledon. In her three prior appearances, she made it to the second round.
Bidding to make her first third round at Wimbledon, Kenin will face No.73 Wang Xinyu next. Wang defeated Australian qualifier Storm Hunter 6-3, 6-1 in her opener to pocket her first Wimbledon win of her career. Kenin holds a 2-0 advantage over Wang, having beaten her in January in Auckland and at Wimbledon two years ago.