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Kenin, Schwartzman in living color at Roland Garros after gray clay swing
The tie-dyed duo have each rediscovered their 2020 form in Paris after arriving on four-match losing streaks.
Published Jun 05, 2021
WATCH: Sofia Kenin talks to Tennis Channel after an epic three-set win over fellow American Jessica Pegula
It was beneath the gloomy skies of a pandemic-postponed Roland Garros that Sofia Kenin and Diego Schwartzman brought springtime to Paris with career-best results, reaching the finals and semis, respectively.
Though that same form initially eluded them when the clay-court swing returned to its rightful place in the calendar, the tie-dyed duo—both are sporting Fila's collaboration with MSGM—appears to have weathered the storm that saw them take four-match losing streaks into Paris and return to the second week of a major tournament for the first time since October.
The Geek In the Pink
Schwartzman was first into the round of 16 when she dispatched German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1. He is yet to drop a set through the first week after winning back-to-back matches only once between March and May.
“Today was similar to October,” Schwartzman said after the match. “It was cold. The conditions were cloudy, and the ball was not jumping. So I was happy.”
The No. 10 seed earned a career-high ranking of No. 8 thanks to his fall French Open, where he scored an iconic five-set win over two-time finalist and reigning US Open champion Dominic Thiem. That run earned him a maiden berth into the ATP Finals, all of which admittedly kept him on the road longer than the Buenos Aires-based Argentine was used to.
I think sometimes is not very easy to be patient, to be confident, to be like I have to be on court...I have to be ready for every single training session, every single match.
“I know many guys from Latin America, we are traveling since, I don't know, last 10 months, I wasn't home for more than just one month and a half, and maybe the European guys are going back to home every single week. So that difference, it's very important.
“I think sometimes is not very easy to be patient, to be confident, to be like I have to be on court. You know, I have to be patient, I have to be ready for every single training session, every single match.”
Despite an optimistic quarterfinal result in Barcelona, the Schwartzman ship listed badly as he went winless in his next three events, including the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where he reached the final last fall.
At the height of what should be his most successful swing, all he wanted was a vacation.
“Finishing in Roland Garros, I was thinking, ‘Okay, this place, it's a great place for me. I did great things here in the past, and I have to play good tennis. Let's see what happens. If it's not a good week, I can go back just for a few days.”
Planning one has proven equally effective; taking the court in MSGM x Fila's tropical pink tie-dye, Schwartzman is averaging two hours per match and has struck a combined 70 winners to 62 errors over three matches. Jan-Lennard Struff, a player he beat 6-3, 6-0 in their only previous clay-court clash, stands between him and a return to the quarterfinals.
“Everything was good since I arrived to Paris, and now I'm winning matches again. I know that I'm going back home after the tournament, so everything is good right now.”
A contrast to her more serious demeanor, Kenin is nonetheless sporting an even more vibrant variation of Fila’s colorway—replete with a sophisticated high neck that hasn’t quite covered her fighting spirit through a pair of titanic three-setters en route to the second week.
“I just take one match at a time, just fight out there, and just leave everything out on the court. Then if it's not enough, then it's not enough,” she said after a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over Jessica Pegula. “But I want to make sure I leave everything on court.”
The 2020 Australian Open champion hadn’t won a match since the Miami Open, and announced a split with father Alex, who had served as her lifelong coach, that proved inauspicious as she, too, exited in the first round of Rome.
“Leading up it wasn't maybe the best form, but I worked hard over the past few weeks and everything is clicking together, which I'm really happy about. Of course, I feel like there is always room for improvement. I feel like my game is not, for example, there how it was in the Australian Open 2020…”
She trails off before adding, “…when I won.”
Of course, I have great memories from here. I obviously cannot live on that. You know, I have to try to move on…I just think I need to lock in and put that aside. That was last year. Try to make some new memories this year.
Starting against an in-form Jelena Ostapenko, who won Roland Garros in 2017, Kenin willed herself out of what looked like an obvious upset and began striking her backhand with its trademark precision.
An even greater challenge came on Saturday when she faced a fellow American in Pegula, an Australian Open quarterfinalist and one of the stories of the 2021 season. Though Pegula reversed an 0-3 deficit to take the opening set, Kenin hit through her frustrations to level the match and stave off the No. 28 seed in a tense decider.
“I've worked hard on my fitness and my game the past few weeks, so I feel like it's obviously improving. Of course, the more matches that I'm playing, more confidence I'm getting.
“I'm happy that it's clicking during French Open. I'm not going to complain about that.”
Kenin will next play Maria Sakkari, and though the Greek No. 1 beat her at the start of the season in Abu Dhabi, the No. 4 seed is feeling comfortable with the conditions and eager to reassert her presence at the top of the game.
“Of course, I have great memories from here. I obviously cannot live on that. You know, I have to try to move on…I just think I need to lock in and put that aside. That was last year. Try to make some new memories this year.”