2020 French Open, SF Highlights: Sofia Kenin vs. Iga Swiatek for the title

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 πŸ“Ί

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.

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9 thoughts on “2020 French Open, SF Highlights: Sofia Kenin vs. Iga Swiatek for the title

  1. Iga was superb today and I don’t think anyone on the tour could have beaten her in that form; some of her forehands were topping 80 mph, which is remarkable for a 19 year old.

    I think credit must also go to Nadia though, who showed great spirit, carried on fighting hard to the end and didn’t crumble at all (her one game against Iga in the second set was a break back, and near the end). I hope this is just the start of a better career for her.

    I think both players were struggling with the wind in the second match, but Sofia just had a bit more stability at the end.

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    • What a great tournament for Podoroska! I’ll be honest that I knew very little about her before this tournament. To keep breaking new ground at a Slam to reach the SFs was a remarkable story! Tend to think she’ll keep rising because prior to the French Open, she’d had a great year on the ITF circuit and won a lot of matches.

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  2. I got a notification that somebody responded to a comment I made on YouTube mid last year where I said Iga Swiatek just needed more pop on her forehand and she would win a Slam – well, it looks like for one I was right haha!

    I did see Mats Wilander compare Iga to Novak Djokovic. I kind of see it, with how she plays. But actually, I think Sofia Kenin plays even more like Novak Djokovic. Not just in how she redirects the ball, turns defence into attack, or her point construction. She also has this same approach to raising aggression in return games when she falls behind, and going into wall mode when she’s up against it on serve. And, of course, her on court demeanor is making her quite divisive to fans, much as Novak does.

    Based on form thus far, I’m going to give Iga the edge to win. She hasn’t flinched thus far, so I’m thinking she might continue in this fashion. But of course Kenin is fully capable of winning if she plays her best!

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      • I think I’d like to see Kenin win it, purely to prove her haters wrong. I’ll be surprised if this is the last opportunity at winning a Slam for either player though.

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  3. I think the match is too close to call; either of them could win it.

    Mixed feelings here for me. I feel more simpatico with Iga as a person than I do Sofia (Iga’s quite geeky and likes maths and Pink Floyd), but I don’t really want the game to be dominated by power players, which it looks like is going to happen again.

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