Australian Open champion, Sofia Kenin has battled her way into the semi-finals in Lyon- can she keep it going and advance to the final when she faces Alison van Uytvanck on Saturday?
Kenin vs Van Uytvanck is live from Lyon on Saturday, 7 March from 4:00pm local time/ 3:000pm GMT
While Kenin remains unconvincing, she is at least winning matches again, after her minor post-Australian Open lull.
Following her superb title run in Melbourne, where she took out world No. 1, Ashleigh Barty in the semis, and two-time major winner, Garbine Muguruza in the final to claim her first Grand Slam title, Kenin suffered back-to-back opening round exits in Dubai and Doha.
However, she has been winning matches again in Lyon, beating Vitalia Diatchenko, Jacqueline Cristian and Oceane Dodin to make the last four. She was comfortable against Diatchenko in the first round, winning 6-4 6-3, but she was pushed all the way by Cristian in the second round, fighting back from a set and 3-5 down, and saving a match point before emerging with a 6-7 7-5 6-4.
Kenin needed three sets again in her quarter final against Dodin, overcoming the loss of a tight second set to come through 6-1 6-7 6-2. The top seed was in complete control of proceedings and looked set for a quiet evening when she led 6-1 3-1, but she faltered while attempting to close out the match, giving the break back at 5-3. Kenin again saw the finish line when she held a 5-1 lead in the ensuing tie break, but Dodin reeled off the next six points to take a remarkable set and force a third. World No. 5, Kenin regrouped and reassessed herself on the match in the third set, breaking twice en route the victory that took almost two hours
“It was still not perfect today, but I definitely feel like I found my rhythm. I was playing well, dictating well,” Kenin said after the match.
“It was a bit if a strange match. I was up, and somehow managed to not close it out there, but overall, I think it was a good match. I played some good tennis, some good points, and I’m happy with the way that I found my rhythm after yesterday”.
“I felt pretty good in the first round – still not 100 percent, but I still got the win – and I would say that today was my best game [here so far].”
Kenin, who claimed titles in Hobart, Mallorca and Guangzhou last year, is into her second semi-final of the season, the other coming during her supreme title run at the Australian Open. Her other results this year have been second rounds in Brisbane and Adelaide, and the aforementioned opening round losses in Dubai and Doha. Can the world No. 5 advance to a second final of the year by beating Alison Van Uytvanck on Saturday?
Van Uytvanck arrived Lyon with only two wins from her four previous main draw appearances, but she’s strung together three wins this week, beating Katarzyna Kawa, Victoria Tomova, and Caroline Garcia in the quarter finals.
The win against former world No. 4, Garcia was arguably the most impressive, as she breezed to a 6-2 6-2 victory in just 70 minutes. The former world No. 37 won a tremendous 81% of points on her first serve, saved all eight break points she faced, and converted half of the eight opportunities that came her way.
“I think I played well. It’s a good win for me. She beat two Belgian players here, so I was like, ‘No way!'” van Uytvanck said after the match. “Beating my girlfriend in the first round, that was a [tough] match – 7-6 in the third”.
“I’m just happy with the way I played today and to be in the semifinals.”
The 63rd-ranked Belgian had opened her season with consecutive first round losses in Hobart and the Australian Open, but she went one round better in St. Petersburg and Doha, while she failed to qualify Dubai somewhere in that mix.
Van Uytvanck is looking to reach her fifth WTA final as she bids to add to her four titles, two of which came last year in Budapest and Tashkent. She and Kenin have met only once before in a tour-level main draw, in Mallorca in 2018, when Kenin won 2-6 6-4 6-4. However, Van Uytvanck does have two other wins over the American, at an ITF tournament in Las Vegas in 2016, and at the Roland Garros qualifiers in 2017.
“I played her when I played ITF $60,000 in Las Vegas, and now she wins the Australian Open,” Van Uytvanck said about Kenin. “She’s playing well. She’s Top 10, a solid player.”
“It’s going to be a different match than today. I look forward to it. Hopefully, I can keep my level like today, and we’ll see.”
Again, Kenin has not been in full flow in Lyon, but she has battled through the draw in characteristic fashion and got herself into the semi-finals. The American will be required to fight hard again as she takes on Van Uytvanck for a spot on Sunday’s final.