If Sonia Kenin were to write a feature story on herself and she had to describe herself, she would use one word: “Feisty”. She smiles about it but that is perfectly accurate. She is like a pocket rocket and this year with all its tribulations has been one of celebrations for the 21-year-old American.
“I'm fighting for every point. It's not easy. Definitely feisty,” Miss Kenin said after stopping Petra Kvitova in the semis 6-4, 7-5. “I guess a piece is I won a Grand Slam, and now I'm in the final of Roland Garros, which is really special. I guess that's a really nice piece to have. Hopefully might be another piece to write that I won Roland Garros, which would be really special.”
When Miss Kenin takes on Iga Swiatek it will be their first meeting at a tour level. They did play at the French in juniors and Miss Swiatek scored the win but the American, who hated clay tennis at the time, knows she is a different player and obviously a much better one. Clay is no longer some dusty surface for her.
“I don't remember what happened; I think it was like 4-4,” Miss Kenin said. “Honestly, I don't remember. Yeah, I mean, she played well that match. Of course, we're both different players now. I mean, I have to figure out what she does. She's had a great two weeks here. She's had some great results, playing some really good tennis. I know that I'm also playing well. Yeah, I'm just going to enjoy myself today, and then tomorrow I'm going to prepare for Saturday.”
By comparison Miss Swiatek is trying to keep herself planted firmly on the ground. During her semi-final against Nadia Podoroska, which she won in 70minutes 6-2, 6-1 she was focusing on the match being a first round rather than a semi-final which helped remove some of the pressure even though it was still at the back of her mind.
“I just kept doing the same stuff,” she said. “I was focusing on my technique and on my legs. I know when I get stressed, I usually feel that in my legs because they are feeling really heavy. The thing is you don't have to focus on that thoughts, you just have to let it go and focus on the things that are really making a difference, like technique or tactics.”
The 19-year-old Pole, who has an eclectic taste in music but listens to Gun N’ Roses before matches, is just the second Polish woman to reach the French final and the first since Jadwiga Jedrzejowska in 1939.
“I never would have thought that I'm going to be in the final, it's crazy,” Miss Swiatek expressed. “Yeah, I just kept believing in myself. It's amazing for me. It's like a dream come true. Basically, I was a little bit, like, overwhelmed. Actually, it's hard to believe. I think it's going to hit me, like, after the tournament. Right now, I'm just living the dream.
“Right now, I'm still on adrenaline, so yeah, it's hard to believe that. I know winning final, it's going to be a tough match. It's still long way because I'm going to play against a more experienced player who has been in a situation like that. Again, I'm going to be, like, an underdog, if you could say something about that, to the finalist. Yeah, it's going to be a tough match. Yeah, I'm going to just stay focused.”
Having won this year’s Australian Open, if Miss Kenin wins the French, she will be the first woman since Angie Kerber in 2016 to win two majors in the same year.
“Definitely butterflies, I guess. Of course, I really want to win. I have to somehow try not to let my nerves get the better of me,”, Miss Kenin said. “Of course, there's a really good chance I can possibly win. It would be very special. But it is special to be here. I obviously want to make the next step. Really would love to take the title.
“I feel like after Australia people started to know me. I felt a little more pressure from the outside. Keeping this level and playing some great tennis now is really special. Yeah, I feel like people are looking up to me. Definitely, I'm sure, and I hope that all my fans back in U.S. are on their chairs screaming loud for me and rooting for me.
“Yeah, I feel like people definitely respect me and I'm happy. It's not easy to get respect. It's really easy to lose it. Like I said, people respect me. I'm going to keep it that way.”