Sofia Kenin scored the biggest win of her career in her debut at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Thursday, defeating world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka 7-6(4), 6 -2, in the second round matchup.
In a clash between Grand Slam winners, it was Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open title holder, who prevailed over defending champion Sabalenka in one hour and 38 minutes to win a match in Rome for the first time since 2019.
Not only was it Kenin’s first win against a Top 2 player since defeating world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty en route to the 2020 Australian Open title, but it was also the American’s first win against a Top 10 player since that win. Kenin was 0-3 against Top 10 players since defeating Barty over three years ago.
Kenin handed Sabalenka her first defeat before the quarter-finals at any event this year. Sabalenka, last week’s champion in Madrid, arrived in Rome with 29 matches won so far this year, leading the circuit in the race for the WTA finals.
“Obviously, I’m very happy, I played very well,” Kenin said after the match. “Obviously she’s had some good results, a great year, so obviously going into the match there wasn’t a lot of pressure on me.
“I tried to use it to my advantage and of course I felt like an outsider. … I tried to face it, give it my best. I had to give it my best to win.”
In the third round, Kenin will face 30th seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine after Kalinina eased past Anna Blinkova 6-2, 6-2 earlier on Thursday. Kenin leads 4-2 in head-to-head matches with Kalinina, including two wins by the American already this year.
“This victory gives me more confidence and I hope I can use it to my advantage for the next round,” said Kenin.
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