Weekend Herald

Kenin to face teenager in fi­nal

- Sports · Tennis · Australian Open · Sofia Kenin · Paris · Petra Kvitová · Serena Williams · Poland · Women's Tennis Association · Czech Republic · Simona Halep · Nicole Melichar · Philippe Chatrier · Mary Pierce

Sofia Kenin entered 2020 with an

11- 11 record in Grand Slam ac­tion. She never had made the quar­ter­fi­nals at any clay court tour­na­ment un­til this trip to Roland Gar­ros — and lost her only tune- up match on the sur­face 6- 0, 6- 0 last month.

Iga Swiatek i s just 19. She’s ranked 54th. She has never won a tour- level ti­tle of any sort. She had never be­fore been past the fourth round at a ma­jor tour­na­ment. Look at the t wo of them now — French Open fi­nal­ists.

Al­ready the owner of a ma­jor tro­phy from this year’s Aus­tralian Open, the No 4- seeded Kenin moved into the ti­tle match in Paris by beat­ing No 7 Pe­tra Kvi­tova 6- 4,

7- 5 yes­ter­day.

“My men­tal­ity has ob­vi­ously changed,” said Kenin, who said she de­rived a boost of con­fi­dence from up­set­ting Ser­ena Wil­liams at Roland Gar­ros a year ago. “I feel like I should be get­ting deep in a tour­na­ment but try not to put pres­sure on my­self.”

The 21- year- old Amer­i­can will carry a 16- 1 mark in Grand Slam ac­tion this sea­son into to­mor­row’s match- up against Poland’s Swiatek.

“I’m go­ing to be, like, an ‘ un­der­dog’,” Swiatek said, us­ing her fin­gers to make air quotes. Maybe. On the other hand, con­sider how dom­i­nant she has been along the way to be­com­ing the low­est- ranked women’s fi­nal­ist at Roland Gar­ros since the WTA rank­ings be­gan in 1975.

Her lat­est lop­sided win was via a 6- 2, 6- 1 score against Ar­gen­tine qual­i­fier Na­dia Podor­oska.

“It seems un­real,” Swiatek said. “On one hand, I know that I can play great tennis. On the other, it’s kind of sur­pris­ing for me.”

She has won all 12 sets she has played in the tour­na­ment, drop­ping merely 23 games.

Kvi­tova, a two- time Wim­ble­don cham­pion, came in hav­ing won ev­ery set, too. But as Kenin put it: “That ob­vi­ously doesn’t mean any­thing if I’m play­ing well.”

The lefty from the Czech Re­pub­lic had grabbed 77 per cent of her ser­vice games in the tour­na­ment, be­fore Kenin stole two of the first three.

Part of it was strong re­turn­ing. More of it was the man­ner in which Kenin was push­ing Kvi­tova around on a breezy late af­ter­noon, pin­ning her to the base­line.

Also work­ing in Kenin’s favour was an abil­ity to sense where a ball was headed and use her speed to track it down, re­peat­edly stretch­ing points that seemed lost.

Even­tu­ally, that ap­peared to make Kvi­tova play as if she felt she needed to try to do more, maybe do too much, be­cause she would cut off points early by at­tempt­ing to end them — and, too of­ten, she would miss the mark.

By the end, Kvi­tova pro­duced 31 un­forced er­rors, to 20 for Kenin, whose shouts of “Come on!” grew louder as the end grew closer.

When Swiatek’s 70- minute tour de force ended be­fore the hun­dreds at Court Philippe Cha­trier — there is a daily limit on spec­ta­tors be­cause of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic — she asked for more noise, wav­ing her arms and cup­ping a hand to her ear. Swiatek v Podor­oska was the first women’s semi­fi­nal at Roland Gar­ros be­tween un­seeded op­po­nents since 1983 — and only Swiatek truly seemed ready for the stage.

Podor­oska is ranked 131st, the first fe­male qual­i­fier in the pro­fes­sional era to get to the fi­nal four in Paris.

Just in case some­one might get the idea this was a fluke for Swiatek: She elim­i­nated 2018 cham­pion and No 1 seed Si­mona Halep 6- 1, 6- 2 in the fourth round, af­ter de­feat­ing 2019 run­ner- up Mar­keta Von­drousova by the same score in the first.

Now Swiatek i s chas­ing a unique two- fer in Paris: She has made it into the dou­bles semi­fi­nals with Amer­i­can Ni­cole Melichar, too, giv­ing her a chance to be­come the first player since Mary Pierce in 2000 to win the women’s sin­gles and dou­bles in Paris.

I should be get­ting deep in a tour­na­ment but try not to put pres­sure on my­self.

Sofia Kenin

 ?? Photo / AP ?? Pole Iga Swiatek asks to hear the noise in Paris.
Photo / AP Pole Iga Swiatek asks to hear the noise in Paris.

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