In a clash of major winners, 2020 Australian Open champion Kenin defeated reigning Australian Open champion Sabalenka in 1 hour and 38 minutes.
Sofia Kenin stunned World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka in the second round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Thursday, winning 7-6(4), 6-2. In a clash of major winners, 2020 Australian Open champion Kenin defeated reigning Australian Open champion Sabalenka in 1 hour and 38 minutes, winning a match in Rome for the first time since 2019. Not only was this Kenin’s first victory over a Top 2 player since defeating World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty en route to her 2020 Australian Open title, but it was also the American’s first victory over any Top 10 player since that triumph. Kenin was 0-3 against Top 10 players since defeating Barty three years ago.
Kenin’s victory was her first over Sabalenka in their three career meetings. Sabalenka defeated Kenin twice on hard court in 2018, but it was former World No.4 Kenin who pulled off the upset in their first clay-court meeting. Kenin derailed Sabalenka’s incredible season, handing her her first loss before the quarterfinals of any event this year. Sabalenka, who won in Madrid last week, came into Rome with a tour-leading 29 match wins this year and is ranked first in the Race to the WTA Finals.
Obviously super happy, I played really well,” Kenin said afterward. “Of course she’s had some great results, great year, so of course going into the match there’s not much pressure on my side. I tried to use that to my advantage, and of course I felt like an underdog coming in. … I tried to take it to her, do my best. I had to bring my A-game in order to win.”
In the 67-minute first set, Sabalenka came back from a break down twice, including at 6-5 when Kenin served for the set. But Kenin took command early in the tiebreak, slamming a backhand crosscourt winner to go up 3-0. Sabalenka saved Kenin’s first three set points from a 6-1 deficit, but Kenin won the breaker at 6-4 after Sabalenka misfired on a forehand into the net. Both players were 2-for-7 on break points in the set, but Kenin had ten fewer unforced errors than Sabalenka to win.
Kenin broke for 4-2 in the second set, and the American cruised from there, converting her first match point two games later with a deft winner into the corner. Kenin will face No.30 seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine in the third round, after Kalinina defeated Anna Blinkova 6-2, 6-2 earlier in the day. Kenin has a 4-2 head-to-head record against Kalinina, with two victories already this year.