Why Sofia Kenin is the dark horse for French Open 2024 after taking down her first seed in the second round

Why Sofia Kenin is the dark horse for French Open 2024
Why Sofia Kenin is the dark horse for French Open 2024

Sofia Kenin entered the third round of the 2024 French Open by defeating 21st seed Caroline Garcia of France 6-3, 6-3 on Wednesday (29 May). Kenin had beaten Laura Siegemund of Germany 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round.

Kenin has experienced Grand Slam glory in the past, having won the Australian Open and finished runner-up at the French Open in 2020. She was also adjudged WTA Player of the Year that season. Thus, she knows how to grind matches out on the red clay of Roland Garros.

The 25-year-old American is now enjoying an improved run at the clay Major after having a pretty disappointing season. As a former finalist, she has both the pedigree and experience needed to make a deep run in the tournament.

"I absolute love this court" - Sofia Kenin on playing on Court Philippe-Chartrier at the French Open

Sofia Kenin had won only three matches this year before the start of the French Open. Her two wins at Roland Garros have improved her win-loss record in 2024 to 5-13.

She is, in fact, playing at French Open for the first time since 2021, having missed the last two versions of the tournament. She oozed confidence in her post-match interview following her victory in the second round, saying:

"Yeah, I absolutely love this court. I feel like I have some kind of connection here and, yeah, I really enjoy it every time I step out of the court and I feel like I'm playing some great tennis and, you know, the hard work is paying off. So, I'm very happy,"

She might have to face former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the third round. Later, she might have to take on Ons Jabeur in the fourth round and then compatriot Coco Gauff in the quarterfinals.

Sofia Kenin has better head-to-head records against 2 of her next 3 potential opponents

2024 French Open - Day 4
2024 French Open - Day 4

Kenin's career head-to-head is tied at 2-2 with Ostapenko, but she leads Jabeur and Gauff 6-2 and 2-1, respectively. It means that she has a positive head-to-head against two of her next three prospective opponents and is tied with the other one. Even against Ostapenko, she has won their only previous clash on clay.

Hence, it is by no means beyond the American to reach the semifinal. Should she be able to reach the last four, she, however, will then probably have to face Iga Swiatek, who is the best player in the world at the moment. The Pole is the odds-on favourite to win the title - but one never knows.

Reaching the last four will likely see Kenin facing the mighty Swiatek, who has won three of the last four French Opens. Kenin lost in the final at Roland Garros in 2020 to hand Swiatek her first Grand Slam title. She will, therefore, have revenge in mind should the two meet in the semifinal.

Should she manage to get past the apparently immovable object that is Swiatek on clay, she should have the confidence of taking on anybody. She might come up against Sabalenka in the final, who enjoys a 3-1 head-to-head against the American.

However, quite noticeably, Kenin has won their only previous meeting on clay. Thus, she will believe that she can beat almost all her prospective opponents at French Open, except maybe, Swiatek.

Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka and Gauff will continue to be the favorites, but Kenin could very well prove to be the dark horse, given her ability to play on clay and her past success in Paris.

The competition in women’s tennis is quite stiff, as Swiatek’s close shave against Naomi Osaka, in which the defending champion had to save a match point to win the match, showed.

As tennis has shown time and again, no player, not even the very best, can be considered unbeatable on any particular day. All things considred, Sofia Kenin might just be the one to spring in a few more surprises at this year’s French Open.

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