Sofia Kenin conquered Jelena Ostapenko 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to reach French Open 2nd round
Sofia Kenin’s road to Roland Garros, especially without the guidance of her long-time coach and father, was far from smooth. Although she won the 2020 Australian Open, reached the final of the 2020 French Open, and was named WTA Player of the Year, she has been anything but this season.
It appears that the straight sets loss to Iga Swiatek in the final of Roland Garros last October has utterly dismantled her confidence. As the Australian Open defending champion, the twenty-two-year-old American would surely feel added pressure but losing in the second round seemed to further undermine her confidence as she made only two quarterfinals in eight events.
Her opponent Jelena Ostapenko, won the French Open in 2017. While the twenty-three-year-old Latvian has failed to equal or approximate that monumental achievement, she is working her way back up the rankings, reaching the quarters at the 2021 Italian Open where she lost in three to Karolina Pliskova despite having match points.
This was their second meeting and first at a WTA event. They played last year at the Billie Jean Cup where Ostapenko prevailed in three sets.
Ostapenko served first and held easily to 15 behind a great drop shot, inside-out forehand, and backhand volley on consecutive points.
Kenin, ranked 5th in the world, had a more difficult time in her opening service game as Ostapenko continued to unleash off the ground, crushing a forehand down the line for 0-15. The twenty-two-year-old American soon faced double breakpoint and dropped serve when her opponent’s backhand drew another forehand error.
The world #44 up 2-0, failed to consolidate the break as she dumped serve following three unforced errors off the forehand. Kenin began to find her range but to no avail as she double faulted to give back the break. Ostapenko, serving at 3-1, faced three deuce and two breakpoints and following two consecutive double faults, dropped serve.
Both utilize the drop shot to great effect and Kenin employed it successfully on multiple occasions when returning serve. Kenin finally held serve and to love to level the set at 3-3.
Ostapenko made 4/6 first serves and held to 30 for 4-3. Both continued to rip the backhand down the line, while a netted drop shot earned Ostapenko a breakpoint. Kenin responded admirably as she struck a brilliant backhand down the line to save break point and held for 4-4 when her opponent’s return went wide.
Ostapenko missed 6/10 first serves and it cost her as Kenin crushed the backhand return down the line to earn the break and the opportunity to serve for the set. Ostapenko refused to yield, reaching 30-30 behind well-struck backhands and a spectacular inside-in forehand. Kenin jammed Ostapenko with a well-placed second serve and secured the game and the set when her opponent netted a makeable backhand.
Ostapenko served first in the second and despite facing deuce, held for 1-0 with her first ace
and another extraordinary backhand down the line. Kenin missed 4/6 first serves including a double fault but managed to hold to 30 for 1-1 following another unforced error from her opponent.
Ostapenko held easily to 15 for 2-1 with a fantastic crosscourt backhand on game point. Kenin quickly went down 0-30 and soon faced breakpoint when she netted a forehand. Following another double fault, four deuce, and three breakpoints, the American dropped serve when she netted a backhand.
Ostapenko kept her foot on the gas, striking two aces, the second on game point to consolidate the break. Kenin, regrouped nicely, holding to 15 for 2-4. Ostapenko could not extend the lead and dropped serve following two outstanding crosscourt forehands on consecutive points from Kenin.
Kenin opened the 8th game with a well-placed serve and forehand down the line and consolidated the break for 4-4 when her opponent whiffed the forehand return. Ostapenko, just two games from defeat, held to 15 for 5-4 with a scintillating backhand down the line.
Kenin, serving to stay in the set, faced set point when a backhand sailed long and conceded it when she overcooked a backhand down the line.
Ostapenko served first in the deciding set and quickly faced triple breakpoint and dumped serve following four unforced errors off the ground. Kenin, well aware of her opponent’s frustration, wasted no time as she held to 15 for 2-0.
Ostapenko donated her 4th double fault and dumped serve following three consecutive winners from her opponent including another drop shot off the return. Kenin, seemingly in command at 3-0, gave back the break following a series of blistering backhands and a crosscourt forehand volley winner from her opponent.
Ostapenko could not maintain that level and dropped serve following two unforced errors and two return winners from Kenin. Kenin, just two games from victory at 4-1, was unable to consolidate the break, dumping serve following two backhand errors. Ostapenko gave back the break, missing 4/8 first serves and gifting five errors including a double fault.
Kenin served for the match at 5-2 but could not get it done as she donated her 6th double fault to concede the game. Although Ostapenko hit two forehand winners in the previous game, she was unable to consolidate the break and after a little over two hours, lost serve and the match at love.
Sofia Kenin, while happy with the win and her performance was not 100% pleased with her form. She won 57% of her first serves and 44% of second serve points and donated six double faults. While she converted 9/10 breakpoints, she committed 32 unforced errors to 23 winners.
Although she plays a qualifier, Hailey Baptiste in the next round, she must significantly up the ante if she hopes to equal or surpass her runner-up finish from seven months ago.