Kenin keeps emotions in check to reach second Slam semi of 2020

American No.4 seed claims three-set victory over her compatriot to set up last-four meeting with Kvitova.

Sofia Kenin, Roland Garros 2020, quarter-final© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT
 - Danielle Rossingh

There is nothing Sofia Kenin loves more than winning.

Having knocked none other than Serena Williams out of Roland-Garros last year, the reigning Australian Open winner overcame fellow American Danielle Collins 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 on Wednesday to move into her first semi-final in Paris.

Kenin has now won 15 Grand Slam matches this season – more than any other player on the tour (she's lost just once at the majors this year). The No.4 seed has reached at least the fourth round of all three majors that were played. The only other player to do so this year is her next opponent, Petra Kvitova

“I love winning more than anything,” Kenin told reporters, when asked what she loved the most about tennis.

“When I win I definitely feel a lot of emotions,” added the 21-year-old, who produced 38 winners, 16 more than her opponent. “It's something that I really enjoy...You always want to have that feeling when you play.”

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon in Paris, contesting her first-ever clay-court quarter-final, Kenin took the opening set, as Collins seemed unsettled, giving her box directions as to where they should be sitting on the court.

“Sit in a different spot. Sit in a different spot. I’m distracted,” the 57th-ranked American told her team at 1-1 in the second set.

Collins soon recovered, and let out an almighty roar when she forced a decider on her third set point. The 26-year-old, who had been relatively subdued until then, seemed full of life all of a sudden.

But any hopes she had of a third-set comeback were squashed in the decider. After a lengthy bathroom break for both women, Kenin raced to a 4-0 lead in just 14 minutes as she clinched a double-break with a daring drop shot return played from the sunny side of the Court Philippe-Chatrier into the shade. With Collins now struggling with an injury, for which she received a medical timeout at 0-4 down, Kenin won the next two games to skip into the last four.

“She played well,” Collins said after the match. “Obviously there is a physical ailment, but I don't want that to take away from the great tennis that she was playing.”

Her victory over Collins, the first in four career meetings against her, extends Kenin’s record versus fellow Americans in Grand Slam play to 8-1. Her only defeat to a countrywoman came at the hands of Madison Keys at the 2019 US Open.

“It’s not easy playing a fellow American,” said Kenin. “I obviously want all of us to do well. Obviously I knew it was going to be one American in the semi-finals. It's really great for American tennis to have a good quarter-final match-up.”

Crushing defeat

Kenin had come to Paris after a crushing 6-0, 6-0 defeat to former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the opening round of Rome, the only time in her career she had lost by that scoreline.

She has had to work hard to reach the last four, going the distance in four of five matches she’s played. Kenin had been on the brink of defeat in her opening round, rallying back from 2-0 down in the decider to beat Russia’s Liudmila Samsonova.

But the American has looked in better form with each match played, and is ready to take on the powerful Kvitova, who advanced to her second Roland-Garros semi-final without the loss of a single set.

Controlling her emotions against the two-time Wimbledon champion will be crucial, said Kenin, who trails the Czech 0-2 head-to-head.

“Definitely nerves. That's going to be a major key. But I feel like I'm going to try to do the best I can to handle myself," said Kenin.

“And of course she's really tall, powerful, she has a big serve, big shots. I'm just going to have to figure out a way to balance my game out. Obviously I'm not going to overpower her since I'm not going to be able to. But I've got different things I can throw in to mix things up.”