Australian Open champion, Sofia Kenin attempts to snap a three-match losing streak when she faces Russia's Vitalia Diatchenko her Lyon opener on Wednesday.
Kenin vs Diatchenko is live from Lyon on Wednesday, 4 March from 3:00pm local time. 2:00pm GMT
Kenin scored a 6-2 6-2 Fed Cup victory over Anastasija Sevastova in her first match after her superb Australian Open triumph, but the American has failed to win a since then, losing to Jelena Ostapenko, also in that Fed Cup weekend, before suffering consecutive opening round defeats in Dubai and Doha to Elena Rybakina and Dayana Yastremska respectively.
“It’s really frustrating,” Kenin admitted after a 6-3 7-6 loss to Yastremska in Doha. “Obviously coming off of Melbourne where I felt I was playing the best tennis of my life coming down to playing, not the worst tennis, but not playing the tennis I want to be playing.”
Despite her recent losing run, Kenin has maintained her ascent up the WTA rankings, entering Lyon at a career-high No. 5 in the world. Her Australian Open success might have come as a surprise, but she has been very consistent in her rise over the last few years. Kenin first broke into the top-100, and the top-50 in 2018, and charged into the top-15 in 2019, following a campaign that yielded title runs in Hobart, Mallorca and Guangzhou; a final in Acapulco, and semi-finals in Toronto and Cincinnati.
She didn’t get off to the best start in 2020, exiting Brisbane and Adelaide in the second round, but she found her form in Melbourne, beating world No. 1, Ashleigh Barty and two-time major winner, Garbine Muguruza en route her maiden Grand Slam title.
Things haven’t quite gone according to plan since then, as she’s failed to register a WTA victory post-Melbourne, but it’s surely a matter of time before the young gun gets going again.
Could that be this week in Lyon, where she opens against qualifier, Vitalia Diatchenko on Wednesday?
Diatchenko is seeking her first WTA main draw win of the season, following first round exits in her three previous events.
The 29-year-old fell to Maria Sakkari in the first round in Adelaide and St. Petersburg, either side of a loss to Danielle Collins at the Australian Open. Her most recent tournament was an ITF W60 meet in Cairo, where she retired from a quarter final meeting with Tereza Mrdeza while trailing 4-0 in the final set.
Diatchenko has been as high as 71st in the rankings, a position she attained towards the end of 2014, but she had a lengthy injury lay-off between 2015 and 2016, dropping out of the top-600 as a result. She has been slowly rebuilding her ranking in the last few seasons, and was up to 90th by the end of last year, having peaked at 73rd during the course of the campaign.
The 29-year-old did not win a single tour-level main draw match in 2019, but she did great at lower-tier tournaments, winning a WTA 125K title in Taipei, and claiming ITF honours in Grenoble, Shrewsbury, Croissy-Beaubourg, Bolton, Istanbul and Penza.
Her poor start to 2020 has again dragged her out of the top-100- can the world No. 108 find some form in Lyon and cause the big upset when she faces Sofia Kenin on Tuesday?
Interestingly, Diatchenko has a winning record against Kenin, having scored a 6-4 6-1 victory over the American in their only previous encounter at Wimbledon in 2018. That was the same tournament where she stopped Maria Sharapova en route the third round- her best Grand Slam result. The Russian, who plays double-handed on both sides, is dangerous, but she also comes in with question marks around her fitness, having retired from her most recent tournament.
Kenin has obviously improved in leaps and bounds since her last encounter with Diatchenko, and is a heavy favourite to gain her revenge in Lyon on Wednesday.