Billed by the draw as a must-play first-round match, Coco Gauff vs. Sofia Kenin at Wimbledon did not disappoint us. The Americans, who had previously divided two direct duels, managed the distance in just over two hours. In the end, Kenin eliminated seventh-seeded Gauff in one 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 stunning and will face China Xin Yu Wang in the second round as Gauff prepares for her first doubles match with her teammate Jessica Pegula On Wednesday.
Here are three takeaways from Monday’s Gauff-Kenin game in London:
This shouldn’t have been a first round game
Similar to Venus Williams vs. Elina Svitolina, that was the bad luck of the draw and a duel better saved for a later round. For the second time in four appearances, Gauff faced a fellow American and former Grand Slam winner (Venus Williams in 2019) in the first round at Wimbledon, but seeded at No. 7 is particularly painful.
Kenin is a real contender
The 25-year-old has struggled this season but appears to be in pre-pandemic form at Wimbledon. Kenin won her only Major at the 2020 Australian Open, finishing second at Roland Garros in the spring and rising to No. 4 in the world. She has since struggled with injuries and poor form, never progressing past the second round at Wimbledon. But she got through her three qualifiers without losing a set and played with strength and confidence from Monday.
“Oh my God. I can’t even talk,” Kenin said in her post-game TV interview. “I’m super happy. Coco played a tough game. I knew I had to do my best to win.”
Against arguably the best player on the women’s tour – in the third game of the second set, Gauff fell on her butt, slipped to score with a forehand, jumped up, ran to the opposite touchline and made the next two throws to seal the point fetch – Kenin agreed with Gauff’s court reporting. She also made the most of her second serve chances, winning 76% of them while attacking Gauff’s second serves and taking 61% from the 19-year-old. Kenin was also the more stable and mentally tougher player on Monday, which will serve her well for the rest of the two weeks.
Gauff’s forehand still lets them down
And Kenin capitalized on that, hitting Gauff’s forehand 44% of the time, forcing them to 16 errors. Gauff’s forehand problems have haunted her since reaching the Roland Garros final last year, but she recently said she feels more comfortable being aggressive on that side of the ball. Still, she struggled with the shot on Monday, not finding the net as often as expected and pulling Kenin into several long rallies, leaving her forehand open to attack.
When asked about the game she thinks she needs to work on in the coming months, Gauff said: “I have to take care of my service games. I think I’m a better server than.” [Kenin], but she took care of the plus ones and plus twos a lot better than I did. And of course my forehand which is more aggressive on these shots.”