Thursday, October 8, 2020

Swiatek, Kenin to meet in unlikely French Open final

Sofia Kenin, playing in the 2018 Berkeley (Calif.)
Challenger, reached her second Grand Slam final
of the year. She won the Australian Open as the
14th seed. Photo by Paul Bauman
   When the French Open began, there was little reason to think that Iga Swiatek or Sofia Kenin would reach the final.
   The 19-year-old Swiatek was unseeded at No. 54 in the world, and Kenin had never reached the quarterfinals in a clay-court tournament. Both lost their first match in their only tuneup tournament, the Italian Open, Swiatek to qualifier Arantxa Rus and Kenin 6-0, 6-0 to Victoria Azarenka. 
   But Swiatek (pronounced Shvee-ON-tek) and the fourth-seeded Kenin, 21, will meet for the first time as professionals on Saturday at 6 a.m. PDT (NBC). 
   Poland's Swiatek continued to roll through the draw, routing Nadia Podoroska of Argentina 6-2, 6-1 in 70 minutes. Podoroska, 23, was bidding to become the first qualifier to reach a major final.
   "I'm kind of surprised," Swiatek admitted on "I never thought before the tournament I would play so well. But I always knew that if I was going to make a final of a Grand Slam, it would be the French Open."
   Swiatek has not lost more than five games in a set in the tournament, surrendering an average of only 3.8 games in her six matches. That includes a 6-1, 6-2 thrashing of top-seeded Simona Halep, the 2018 champion, in the fourth round.
   Kenin, a Moscow-born American, topped seventh-seeded Petra Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion and a French Open semifinalist eight years ago, 6-4, 7-5 to reach her second Grand Slam final of the year.
   Kenin, who won the Australian Open as the 14th seed, narrowly avoided her fifth three-set match of the tournament. She prevailed with her steady groundstrokes, devastating drop shot and mental toughness, converting four of five break points and saving 10 of 12 against her. 
   "I'm just really fierce," Kenin, who had been 0-2 against Kvitova, explained on Tennis Channel. "I'm just fighting for every point. They're not going to give it to me; I really have to go after it and fight for it. I feel like in the past I've always expected them to make a mistake. Now I've got a mindset that I've got to take it, take the chance, take a risk."
   Kvitova, a 30-year-old left-hander, was seeking her second Grand Slam final since suffering career-threatening cuts to her left hand in a December 2016 knife attack at her home in the Czech Republic and sitting out for more than four months. She lost to Naomi Osaka in the 2019 Australian Open title match.
   Swiatek, who will jump to a career high of at least No. 24 after the French Open, hasn't exactly come out of nowhere. After winning the 2018 Wimbledon girls singles title, she reached the fourth round of last year's French Open and this year's Australian Open and the third round of the recent U.S. Open.
   Swiatek defeated Kenin 6-4, 7-5 in the third round of the French Open girls event in 2016. Kenin proceeded to win Northern California Challengers in Sacramento that year at 17, Stockton in 2017 and Berkeley in 2018
   In the men's doubles semifinals, seventh-seeded Mate Pavic of Croatia and Bruno Soares of Brazil beat top-seeded Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah of Colombia 7-6 (4), 7-5.
   Farah won the 2008 NCAA doubles title with USC teammate Kaes Van't Hof and reached the singles final of the 2012 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger, losing to ex-Trojans teammate Steve Johnson.
   Pavic and Soares, seeking their second consecutive Grand Slam title, will meet eighth-seeded Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies of Germany on Saturday. Krawietz and Mies, the defending champions, outplayed ninth-seeded Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Nikola Mektic of Croatia 6-3, 7-5. 
   Pavic and Soares defeated Koolhof and Mektic in the U.S. Open final last month.
   In today's boys doubles quarterfinals, eighth-seeded Bruno Oliveira and Natan Rodrigues of Brazil beat unseeded Arthur Fery, a Stanford freshman, and Felix Gill of Great Britain 6-4, 3-6 [10-3].

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