Sofia Kenin reached her first Hologic WTA Tour final in nearly three years by grinding past fellow American Emma Navarro 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 in their Friday night semifinal clash at the Cymbiotika San Diego Open.
In their first meeting, wild card Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open champion, needed 2 hours and 10 minutes to topple qualifier Navarro, who was playing in just the second tour-level semifinal of her career.
"I’m definitely really happy, it gives me a lot of confidence," Kenin said afterwards. "Coming into the tournament, I didn’t expect to be in the final, so I’ve kind of had like a chill mentality, taking one match at a time."
Major champ showdown next: Kenin’s win sets up a final between Grand Slam champions on Saturday. Kenin will face 2021 Roland Garros titlist Barbora Krejcikova for the title, after Krejcikova posted a come-from-behind win over Danielle Collins in the day’s first semifinal.
Krejcikova defeated Kenin in their only previous meeting, a 6-1, 6-4 victory on the clay courts of Rome in 2021.
Championship match return: Before this week, Kenin’s most recent final came at 2020 Roland Garros, which took place in October of that year. It was Kenin’s second major final of that season, having won her first Grand Slam title in Australia to kick off the year.
But injuries and lengthy hiatuses from tour caused Kenin’s ranking to fall from a career-high of World No.4 at the end of 2020 to outside the Top 200 by June of 2022.
However, Kenin has since worked her way back inside the Top 100 (currently at World No.93) and she is now one win away from her sixth career title. It would be her first title since Lyon in March of 2020, just after she won her Grand Slam title.
Key moments: Kenin started off hot in the topsy-turvy affair against World No.61 Navarro. After saving a break point in a hold for 1-1, Kenin won 16 of the next 19 points to lead 5-1, then took the opening set.
However, Navarro drew an increasing number of errors from Kenin in the second set, and the qualifier won four straight games from a break down to lead 5-3. Kenin erased five set points in that game, but at 6-5, Navarro converted her sixth set point, completing the second-set comeback.
But Kenin rebounded in the final set, breaking Navarro three straight times en route to 4-1. At 5-4, Kenin's second ace set up triple match point, and she forced a Navarro error with one final backhand to close out the victory. Kenin had 38 winners to Navarro's 16 in the match.