We’re down to the final two after Thursday’s semi-finals in Paris. The 2020 French Open will be contested between Sofia Kenin and Iga Swiatek on Saturday as both players won through their semi-finals in straight sets. This post includes reviews of the semi-final matches and a preview of Saturday’s final, the youngest women’s Slam final in over a decade.
Iga Swiatek d. Nadia Podoroska, 6-2 6-1
Iga Swiatek continued her serene progress through the draw as beat fellow Slam semi-final newbie, Podoroska, to advance to her first Slam final. Swiatek has dropped just 23 games in six matches (!!!) which is a staggering effort.
This was match was mostly one-way traffic. Podoroska had to work extremely hard to win two of her three games. Swiatek dictated the rallies as she went side-to-side, opening up the court with her forehand which was again the star of the show. Swiatek also employed the kick serve very effectively. Swiatek’s first serve percentage was on the low side at 53%. Podoroska was unable to get on top of the serve and attack it. Swiatek won 70% of points behind her first serve and 67% of points behind her second serve.
Swiatek has been the heavy favourite in her last two matches, a first ever Slam quarter-final and semi-final, and she’s handled the occasion both times superbly. I was nervous for her so can’t begin to imagine what she must have been feeling! I’ve been on the Swiatek bandwagon since watching her for the first time at the French Open last year. I thought she’d make the second week. I never imagined she’d go all the way to the final. Swiatek is the first Polish player to reach the French Open final in the Open Era!
Sofia Kenin d. Petra Kvitova, 6-4 7-5
Sofia Kenin played her best match of the tournament as she edged past Kvitova in an intense contest. I’m sad for Kvitova but you have to hand it to Kenin who played such a great match.
In the first set, Kenin won only one of seven points behind her second serve, but she gave Kvitova so few looks at it. Kenin landed 79% of first serves in and won 70% of points behind it. Unlike her two previous matches, Kvitova didn’t get many free points on serve. In the rallies, Kenin’s point construction was terrific. I love how she redirects the ball and she forced Kvitova to run, something we haven’t seen much of at this tournament. Kenin held her position on the baseline surprisingly well, hit with great depth and mixed up the pace, drawing errors from Kvitova’s backhand wing.
Kenin sealed the first break in the second set at 2-2 and then saved four break points to consolidate the hold in a titanic game. While not as flashy and consecutive, it reminded me of the Australian Open final against Muguruza where she clutched her way out of trouble in that game. Kenin did have a wobble serving out the match at *5-4 as she was broken to 15, mostly with her errors although Kvitova did land returns in court every time which wasn’t always the case in this match. However, the resilient American broke straight back and served out the match at the second time of asking.
I still keep thinking back to Rome where Kenin’s last match was a 0-6 0-6 loss to Azarenka! Kenin has had to fight through adversity at this tournament, being pushed to three sets in four of her six matches. It’s a magnificent effort and i’m still not sure whether Kenin is getting the plaudits that she deserves.
Final preview 📺
It’s been a tournament of shocks and this is certainly not a final we had expected. Quite liking the prospect of this final though! The pair have never played before on the WTA tour. Via WTA Insider, the pair played in the Juniors tournament at the French Open where Swiatek won, 6-4 7-5.
Swiatek has played the more impressive and consistently high-level tennis, hitting more winners than errors in all six matches. Kenin has steadily improved as the tournament has progressed. Kenin is battle tested, having won four of her six matches in three sets. Swiatek has yet to drop more than four games in a set and just hasn’t been challenged yet, much like Kvitova hadn’t ahead of the semi-final.
Swiatek has been so damn good at this tournament. I do wonder whether the occasion of the final changes things. It’s not quite going to feel normal without a full crowd but it’s still a Slam final. I’m pretty much on the fence. If I had to pick a winner, i’d go for Kenin.