20-year-old American Sofia Kenin enters Wimbledon as one of the more exciting young players of 2019. Her excellent season so far has helped her rise from #56 in the first week of the year, to her current ranking of #28. Even being the fifth ranked American, she has flown under the radar. Sloane Stephens is a Major champion, both Serena Williams and Venus Williams are still capturing fans’ attention with their excellent play in their late 30s, Amanda Anisimova has taken Kenin’s spotlight as the top young American, and Daniel Collins is a bit more popular because her breakthrough came at a Major. Unlike the popularity however, Kenin may have the best chance of any American to take home the trophy.
The deep crop of American women’s tennis players not named Williams have not fared well at Wimbledon in the past. Since 1995, only three Americans have even made the final: the Williams sisters and Lindsay Davenport. Venus Williams suffered a first-round upset to another exciting young American, Coco Gauff. Stephens has Major experience, but her first round win Tuesday was her first victory at Wimbledon in her last three appearances. Anisimova has a serious chance of contending here as well but has limited experience playing on grass courts. Collins faces a challenging draw. And while Serena is always one of the players to beat, injuries have held her back all season.
Why Sofia Kenin Can Actually Win
She has a Favorable Draw
Kenin lucked out with her draw, giving her a winnable path to at least the quarterfinals. She plays 19-year-old Dayana Yastremska in the second round, who is playing her first Wimbledon and has not shown any promise on grass yet. She will avoid a seeded player in her third round match, due to second seed Naomi Osaka losing in the first round, giving Kenin a huge opening. Her fourth round would likely be against either Caroline Wozniacki. Wozniacki is a great player but has never played her best at Wimbledon. She has made at least two quarterfinals at each of the other three Majors but has never made it past the fourth round here, making her vulnerable–especially against Kenin’s comfort on grass.
It is difficult to predict any further opponents, but Kenin still has a good chance to make the semifinal if she plays her best tennis. The two highest seeds she could play in the quarterfinal are Simona Halep and Madison Keys. Both players would be favored over Kenin, but Wimbledon has been Keys’ worst Major over her career and Halep is in the midst of her worst run of form in a while. Due to her relatively favorable draw, Kenin has winnable matches throughout the tournament and there is no telling how far she can go.
She is in Great Form and Enjoys Grass
Kenin’s current form throughout 2019 has been excellent. She won her first WTA title in Hobart in the second week of the year without dropping a set. She then made the final in Acapulco, beating Victoria Azarenka and the following week’s Indian Wells champion Bianca Andreescu. Her best performance at a major came at the French Open this year, reaching he fourth round and earning her marquee victory of her career against Serena Williams. She is 4-2 at grand slams this year, with the losses coming to 2018 finalist Halep in Australia, and eventual champion Ashleigh Barty at the French.
Kenin entered the Mallorca Open hoping to repeat her 2018 appearance there, where she reached the semifinal after going through qualifying, defeating then-world #6 Carolina Garcia in the quarterfinal. She did even better this season, winning her second WTA title, beating world #13 Belinda Bencic in the final. She did lose her only other grass court match this year. However, that was with only one day of rest/travel after her title in Mallorca. At Wimbledon, Kenin was quoted saying “grass is my surface” when asked about her transition from clay. She has achievd success on grass, and brings a constantly improving game onto her most comfortable surface.
Sofia Kenin is still relatively unknown, and it would be a stretch to consider her a favorite at Wimbledon. At the same time, she still has a very realistic chance to contend for the title and make a deep run into the second week. Winning several matches at a Major is never easy for any player, but Kenin’s game in addition to her draw make it possible. Over the last couple of decades, well established players have tended to triumph at Wimbledon, so taking home the title will be a challenge. However, Kenin has everything it takes to make a run to at least the semifinal here and become a popular name in American tennis.
Embed from Getty Images