Wednesday, March 6, 2019 - Sofia Kenin plays Yafan Wang in the 2nd round of qualifying during the BNP Paribas Open in at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Kathryn Riley/BNP Paribas Open)
Wang Yafan and Sofia Kenin have become close acquaintances on-court throughout the past week. Maybe a little too close for either player’s liking.
Just days before they met in today’s BNP Paribas Open first round matchup, the two up-and-coming WTA stars battled it out for the 2019 Mexican Open Title. Under the heat of the blistering Acapulco sun, the 24-year-old Chinese dynamo cemented herself as a player to watch for throughout the rest of the season. After dropping the opening set, she vanquished Kenin’s hopes of her second career WTA Tour title with an impressive 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 comeback victory. It was her first career title, capturing the gold through a performance in which she showcased an adept array of on-court abilities.
Fast forward to this afternoon in the desert, where a more temperate heat welcomed the two to their second matchup in less than a week. This time, Kenin would have her revenge. While her prospects at retribution looked bleak to start, Kenin overcame a brutal first set to even the season scoreboard with Yafan after a 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 triumph.
The opening set saw Yafan put in a dominating effort, relinquishing only one game to open up a 6-1 advantage in the match. Winning (4/6), 67% of her break point opportunities, she breezed through to the second frame.
The second set proved to be a very different affair. Kenin regained her composure, looking far more like a World No. 33 player than the faulty surrogate who took the court to start the match. She broke Yafan in the opening game and held on to a 7-5 lead that evened the contest at one set all.
In the final frame, the American and Chinese played their most entertaining set of the match. Both Kenin and Yafan grew increasingly fatigued from the contest’s frenetic pace, with two early injury timeouts derailing play. After the short intermissions, each player went on an impressive run that threatened to close things out for good. Kenin once again started with an opening game break and raced out to a 3-0 lead. In response, Yafan rattled off four consecutive games and retook the advantage. Unfortunately for her, it was Kenin who had the final answer. A decisive burst of energy allowed her to claim the last three games in a row, ending Yafan’s time in the desert.
Kenin, who won her first WTA Title at the Hobart International in January, will next meet No. 6 seed Elina Svitolina during round two action on Friday.