Kenin conquers Ferro and crowd to reach last eight

American No.4 seed finds her inner warrior to overcome Ferro in three sets

Sofia Kenin, Roland Garros 2020, fourth round© Julien Crosnier/FFT
 - Simon Cambers

The biggest mistake the French crowd made at Roland-Garros on Monday was trying to get under the skin of Sofia Kenin.

Trailing by a set to France’s Fiona Ferro in the fourth round at Roland-Garros on Monday, the American took a bathroom break before the start of the second and returned a different player, romping to a 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory.

“I tried to use that as motivation,” Kenin admitted. “Obviously I was not really too happy with how it was going. I knew it's expected. I understand why. I'm playing a French player, and she's had a great run here. Of course, they obviously wanted her to win.

“I just try to tell myself one point at a time, eventually it's going to change if I just keep playing. Yeah, I definitely used the crowd as motivation because I really wanted to win. First of all, I did it for myself. I guess it's always nice to get the win obviously.”

Muttering to herself and gesticulating in disgust whenever a point didn’t go her way, fourth seed Kenin was clearly rattled as Ferro, a brilliant former junior but in the last 16 of a slam for the first time, dominated the opening set.

The 23-year-old Frenchwoman mixed superb athleticism with clever court craft as she drew errors from Kenin. After trailing 2-0, Ferro won six straight games to take the set.

With every game that went Ferro’s way, the crowd - most of the 1,000 people allowed into Roland-Garros had come into Court Philippe-Chatrier – cheered and roared, making enough noise for 10,000.

Kenin looked annoyed but this is a 21-year-old who managed to beat Ashleigh Barty on home soil in Australia on the way to the title at Melbourne Park and she quickly reset.

After trading early breaks in the second, she stepped up her game, attacking the Ferro serve, not allowing the Frenchwoman to get into the rallies.

Suddenly it was Kenin, mixing power with touch and a number of brilliant drop shots, who was in the ascendancy and she levelled the match soon after and then cruised through the third to reach her first quarter-final at Roland-Garros and her first quarter-final on clay, at any event.

“I was just super proud of myself,” said Kenin, who was in tears the second the match was over. “Yes, there was a lot of emotions. I was just super happy that I won. Like, the crowd wasn't the best, which is understandable, but still, I wish it would have been a little bit different.

“I'm like super happy that I'm in the quarters. I usually don't play really good on clay. In the past in juniors, I really hated the clay. Last year I started to like it for the first time. I'm just super proud of myself. I feel like I'm playing really well.”

Fiona Ferro Roland-Garros 2020© Julien Crosnier / FFT

At Roland-Garros last year, Kenin shot to fame when she beat Serena Williams in the third round only to lose to the eventual champion, Barty.

That win started the change in the way she perceives clay and the American says she now knows what it takes to succeed on the surface.

“I feel like last year I started to really like the clay after my great run,” she said. “I played Serena. It was obviously a lot of emotions as well there. Yeah, after that I started to really like the clay.

“I knew what to expect. It's a lot of sliding, it's very physical. I just tried to adjust my game to it. I feel like as each match went, I'm more and more comfortable on the clay.

“I'm super proud to be in the quarter-finals. Because this used to be a surface that I really don't like. Now it's obviously a surface that I really enjoy playing on.”

This time, she takes on either Ons Jabeur of Tunisia or American Danielle Collins, whose match was held over until Tuesday because of rain.

“Jabeur I've played quite a bit,” she said. “I've beaten her all the time except one time. I think it's 5-1 or 4-1. I forgot the ratio. Yeah, I played her last time at US Open. It was a really tough match. She's obviously playing some great tennis. She's a really tough player to play. She's got a lot of variety. She's very tricky. It's going to be an interesting match.

“Against Danielle, I played her in Adelaide. She played a good match. I didn't feel like I could get my rhythm. I lost. But we'll see how it's going to go. She's obviously playing well. She's aggressive. Yeah, I'll just see what's going to happen.”

Ferro, whose ranking will rise to No.41 after reaching the last 16, said she felt Kenin raised her game when she needed.

The Frenchwoman was disappointed to see her eight-match winning streak come to an end but said she enjoyed being out on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

“It was amazing,” she said. “I would have loved that it lasted longer. But I am a bit sad to lose today. This is what I practice for, for moments like this. I was lucky to play three matches on the centre court. It was an unbelievable experience for me. I will do everything to be back as soon as possible.”