Semi-final preview: Kenin v Kvitova

Australian Open champion Kenin takes on two-time Wimbledon winner Kvitova in a blockbuster semi-final on Thursday.

 - Simon Cambers

A heavyweight clash between the tournament's No.4 and No.7 seeds, Sofia Kenin and Petra Kvitova, headlines semi-finals day at Roland-Garros on Thursday.

Kenin, the reigning Australian Open champion, is into her second major semi-final of the season, but first in Paris, while Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon winner, is back in this position for the first time since 2012.

Here's a close look at this intriguing last-four showdown.


Kenin and Kvitova have met twice before, with the Czech winning both encounters. In Miami in 2018, she came from a set down to beat the American 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the third round, while their only clay meeting came in the first round in Madrid the following year, which Kvitova won again, this time in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4.

Where the match can be won

On serve

Kvitova possesses one of the best serves in the women’s game and it’s been clicking nicely throughout this year’s event.

The Czech’s 24 aces put her top of the pile in the tournament and in her quarter-final win over Laura Siegemund on Wednesday, she won 14 of 15 points when her first serve landed in the opening set.

While Kenin has not hit the aces (just three overall), she’s been almost as effective on first and second serve, winning 66 per cent and 47 per cent respectively, compared to Kvitova’s 70 per cent and 51 per cent.

Kvitova has committed 17 double faults, while Kenin has hit 18 and does not have the aces to balance them out.

On return

Both women love to attack on the return of serve, standing tight to the baseline and taking time away from the server as they slash the ball deep. Despite their good serving numbers – both of them back up their serve well - expect plenty of breaks because they are each winning more than 40 per cent of points on their opponent’s first serve and more than 60 per cent on the second. Each one will be under a lot of pressure to hold.

At the net

There’s nothing to choose between the two when it comes to winning points between 0-4 shots, 5-8 and 9 and above. However, Kvitova likes to get the point over quickly if she can and her prowess at the net could be a key factor. The two-time Wimbledon champion has won 45 of 62 points at the net so far this fortnight (72.5 per cent, compared to Kenin’s more than respectable 35 of 59 (or 59.3 per cent).

On the drop shot

Kenin describes the drop shot as a key part of her game and she used it well in her hard-fought win over Danielle Collins on Wednesday.

Kvitova knew that Laura Siegemund would do plenty of drop shots in their quarter-final but the German’s touch was not as effective as usual.

Kenin is likely to use it to draw Kvitova out of position but don’t be surprised if the Czech uses it too, especially when she gets her opponent on the run.

Key stats

Kvitova has won all 10 sets she has contested so far this fortnight, while four of Kenin's five matches have gone to a third set.

The Czech lefty has spent seven hours and 20 minutes on court en route to the semis while Kenin has been on court for eight hours and 49 minutes in singles and an additional six hours and 18 minutes in doubles, where she and Bethanie Mattek-Sands bowed out in the quarter-finals.

Kvitova has unleashed a total of 139 winners this tournament, averaging nearly 14 winners per set.

Kenin and Kvitova are the only two women to make the last 16 or better at all three Grand Slams held this season. Kenin stands alone however with her remarkable 15-1 win-loss record at the majors in 2020. No one on the women's tour has won more matches than her at the slams this year.

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

What they said

Sofia Kenin on her upcoming semi-final:

“It's not going to be an easy match-up. I feel like I'm playing…a good number of matches. I'm obviously loving the clay. I'm just going to do everything I can to take to my advantage.

“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… but I've got different things I can throw in to mix things up. We'll see how it's going to go, but I'm super excited to be in the semi-finals and to play her.”

Petra Kvitova on returning to the Roland-Garros semis:

“I'm really happy that after even eight years I can be in the semi-final again of a Grand Slam after last year’s final of Australia.

“I'm really glad in the last couple of years I improved my results in the Grand Slams, too. So definitely I'm proud of this, and I hope this journey, it's not ended yet.

“To be honest, right now to be in the semi-final after everything I have been through…it probably means more because I couldn't imagine (then) that I can be in the semi-final of the Grand Slam and final of the Australian Open even before. So it's another miracle happen to me.”