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Twenty and into the Top 20: Sofia Kenin savoring summer surge

Twenty and into the Top 20: Sofia Kenin savoring summer surge

There’s more to the American's game than first meets the eye, as she reaches the last four in Cincinnati for her second semifinal showing in as many weeks。

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“This wasn’t how I wanted to win,” 极速赛车双面盘Sofia Kenin told the crowd in Cincinnati on Friday, after she had advanced past Naomi Osaka 6-4, 1-6, 2-0 ret., to reach the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open.

Just as the match seemed poised for an entertaining race to the finish line between the two young players, Osaka pulled up with a left leg injury. She had it taped but ultimately couldn’t continue. Between Osaka and Serena Williams, who withdrew from Cincy due to back pain, last year’s US Open women’s finalists may both be hurting as they return to New York.

While Kenin would rather have out-played Osaka than had the victory handed to her, the way it ended doesn’t take anything away from what the 20-year-old Floridian has accomplished this summer, on all three surfaces。 She began it by beating Serena to reach the fourth round at the French Open on clay。 She followed that with a title run at the Mallorca Open on grass。 And now she has reached the semifinals at the last two North American hard-court events。

Getty Images.

Along the way, she has beaten two world No. 1s, Osaka and Ashleigh Barty, and another Top 10 player, Elina Svitolina, twice. Kenin has also shown herself to be a quick study: In Toronto, she turned the tables on the women who had knocked her out of the French Open and Wimbledon, Barty and Dayana Yastremska.

“I guess revenge is the key, so I’m just going to keep it going,” Kenin said with a smile in  Toronto。

In reality, Kenin, who is currently the fourth-ranked U.S. woman, and who will make her Top 20 debut this coming week, credits her surge to the number of matches she has been able to play. The more she wins, the more she plays, the deeper her groove becomes.

“I think it’s the match play,” Kenin said last week. “Having these really good wins under my belt against these really tough players and top players, I think it’s always good and it just gives me more confidence. It’s helping me to keep the rhythm going.”

And the more Kenin plays, the more we can see that there’s a lot to like about her game, and a lot more to it than first meets the eye. Unlike so many of her U.S.-based peers—Osaka, Madison Keys, Amanda Anisimova, to name three—Kenin is not a wildly streaky, hot and cold, all or nothing player. She makes mistakes and goes into funks like anyone else, but she’s able to balance aggression and consistency. Winning points with a single shot isn’t her game, so she doesn’t try to go that risky route.

 

Instead, Kenin wins with solid, varied serving; with aggressive service returns hit deep and down the middle; with heavy crosscourt forehands; with an instinct for when to close the net, and when to throw in the occasional short slice and high-arcing moonball to change the pace. Against Osaka, Kenin showed that she could hold her own in forehand-to-forehand rallies with one of the tour’s biggest hitters.

The same goes for Kenin’s mental approach. She’s fiery, and she gets annoyed when she misses, but she doesn’t sulk or beat herself up unnecessarily. Like the young player who she lost to in Canada last week, Bianca Andreescu, Kenin seems to have a healthy lack of perfectionism.

U。S。 women’s tennis has strength in numbers these says—Serena, Venus, Keys, Anisimova, Danielle Collins, Alison Riske, Jessica Pegula, Jennifer Brady, and others are all trending in the right direction as the US open approaches。 Right now, Sofia Kenin looks like the most reliable of all of them。 She may not have won the way she wanted to win today, but she’ll be happy to try to do it again tomorrow。


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