Australian Open finalist Sofia Kenin marched into her second grand slam final of the year with a commanding 6-4 7-5 victory against Czech Petra Kvitova at the French Open on Thursday.
The American will now face Polish teenager Iga Zwiatek in a fascinating final on Saturday after the youngster demolished the Argentine qualifier Nadia Podoroska 6-2 6-1 on Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros.
Seventh seed Kvitova, in her first semi-final appearance at Roland Garros since 2012, was often forced out of position by the crafty 21-year-old Kenin.
Kenin raced into a 4-1 lead as Kvitova showed some nerves after holding her first service game to love and, despite her Czech opponent finally getting into the groove, it was enough for the American to bag the first set.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova lost her serve to fall 3-2 behind in the second before breaking back for 5-5, only to drop serve again.
Kenin did not miss her chance as she served for the match for the second time, seeing it through when Kvitova’s cross-court forehand flew wide.
Earlier, Swiatek had reached her first grand slam final at the age of just 19, ending the fairytale run of Podoroska with another dominant victory.
In one of the most unexpected slam semi-finals in recent times, Swiatek won easily to become the lowest-ranked women’s finalist at the French Open since the WTA computer rankings began in 1975.
She’s won all 12 sets she’s played in the tournament and dropped merely 23 games through a half-dozen matches so far.
When this 70-minute tour de force ended before a crowd in the hundreds at Court Philippe Chatrier – there was a daily limit on spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic – Swiatek asked for more noise, waving her arms and cupping a hand to her ear.
Swiatek versus Podoroska was the first women’s semifinal at Roland Garros between unseeded opponents since 1983 – but only Swiatek truly seemed ready for the stage.
Podoroska is ranked 131st, had never won a main-draw Grand Slam match until this event and was the first female qualifier in the professional era to get to the final four in Paris.
This was no fluke. Swiatek, who listens to “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses in her headphones before stepping out on court, had eliminated 2018 champion and No. 1 seed Simona Halep 6-1 6-2 in the fourth round, after defeating 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova by the same score in the first.
Swiatek has been on the rise, and the tennis world’s radar, for a couple of years now.
In 2018, she won the Wimbledon junior singles title and the French Open junior doubles title.
Swiatek is tremendous at the baseline, picking up balls early and smacking big groundstrokes with thick top-spin.
Her power was too much on this breezy afternoon, accounting for a 23-6 edge in winners against Podoroska, a 23-year-old from Rosario, the same hometown as soccer superstar Lionel Messi.