Fresh off her first win since the Australian Open, top seed Sofia Kenin faces rising Romanian qualifier Jaqueline Cristian for a spot in the Lyon quarter-finals on Thursday.
?? Sofia Kenin  vs ?? Jaqueline Cristian [Q] Match Info
Date: Thursday March 5
Tournament: WTA Lyon R2
Time: 3.00pm local time (2.00pm GMT)
Sofia Kenin vs Jaqueline Cristian Head-to-Head
Sofia Kenin vs Jaqueline Cristian Match Preview
Back on track after snapping a three-match WTA losing streak since capturing the Australian Open title, Kenin targets the Lyon quarter-finals on Thursday against rising Romanian qualifier Cristian, who has won 14 of her last 16 matches.
Kenin compiled a famous run to her maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January, defeating World No. 1 and home favourite Ashleigh Barty in the semi-finals before halting the resurgent run of Garbine Muguruza in the final, coming from a set down to conquer the Spaniard for the silverware.
Cracking the top 10 as a result and becoming the highest-ranked American, it was always going to be tough for Kenin to deal with her new-found fame and being the hunted in her next handful of tournaments, and that’s exactly what happened.
After beating Anastasija Sevsastova in Fed Cup action immediately after departing Melbourne, Kenin went on a three-match losing streak, losing the reverse singles to Jelena Ostapenko before first round exits in Dubai and Doha to Elena Rybakina and Dayana Yastremska respectively.
However, there was no cause for concern for Kenin – Rybakina and Yastremska are two of the game’s rising stars, and especially Rybakina has been one of the stand-out players on tour to start 2020. They weren’t blow-out defeats by any means and Kenin regrouped nicely in her Lyon opener on Wednesday, taking care of Vitalia Diatchenko by a 6-4 6-3 scoreline in one hour and 24 minutes.
“I didn’t have the best two weeks,” Kenin said of her Middle Eastern swing. “But I had some tough opponents on a streak of playing some hot tennis and I was close, so it wasn’t like I lost to someone who was no good. I’m just happy to have gotten the win. I’m happy, I played a really good match – she’s such a tough player, so I’m really proud of myself – it’s a good way to kick things off.”
Playing at a tournament with a low-key setting suits Kenin’s vibe to a tee and it shapes as the perfect springboard for the 21-year-old to regain her form before big Premier Mandatory tournaments coming up in her home country at Indian Wells and Miami over the next month.
Can she survive a player that is quietly rising through the ranks at rapid speed to make the quarter-finals on Thursday?
Cristian has already won three matches in Lyon and hasn’t dropped a set on her way to the second round, emerging from qualifying with 7-5 6-0 and 6-3 6-0 wins over Nuria Parrizas-Diaz and Lara Salden, while she completely demolished Priscilla Hon 6-2 6-0 in the opening round of the main draw. What’s impressive is the way Cristian has finished those matches, ending each clash with a bagel, while she’s also registered second set bagels (6-0 sets) in each of her last two tournaments before coming into Lyon, so she’s clearly operating at the peak of her powers at the moment.
Indeed, since earning a first career top 50 win over Veronika Kudermetova in Fed Cup action, Cristian has compiled a 10-1 record, winning the $25k ITF tournament in Trnava before making the quarter-finals in Macon last week. After ending the 2018 and 2019 seasons at No. 201 in the WTA rankings, it’s looking like 2020 is the year the 21-year-old Cristian makes her move on tour and begins her march towards the top 100 – she’s already up to No. 174 across the first two months of the season and now has the chance to test herself against the Australian Open champion in Lyon.
Sofia Kenin vs Jaqueline Cristian Prediction
Cristian has absolutely nothing to lose and can swing freely – and in her current form and confidence, that could make her dangerous. In saying that, Cristian has faced nobody close to the calibre of Kenin in her run of 14 wins from her last 16 matches, and the step up in class should be noticeable on Thursday. After snapping her three-match losing run, Kenin should be too solid here and book her spot in the quarter-finals.