WATCH: Tennis Channel Live discusses which American man is most likely to peak for the US Open

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ATLANTA, Ga.—Sofia Kenin didn’t win her Atlanta Open exhibition match against home favorite Coco Gauff on Monday—it ended in a lopsided 6-1, 6-2 rout—but the 2020 Australian Open champion showed encouraging signs of recovery as she targets a WTA comeback.

“Grateful,” Kenin said, after playing her first match in over four months. “I’m just thankful for a lot of things… I was in a cast (in April) and now I’m playing here. I’m just thankful.”

The 23-year-old hadn’t competed since Indian Wells, where she bowed out with a foot injury—one that would eventually sideline her and even require a cast. Her current ranking of No. 419 is several hundred places away from her world No. 4 peak. And her first official tournament back will actually be the Citi Open next week in Washington D.C..

But there were still flashes of the world-beating Kenin on the courts of Atlantic Station, where the ATP 250 event was celebrating its 12th edition's opening day with their annual WTA match.


After Wimbledon last year, Kenin was ranked world No. 4; in Atlanta, she was No. 419 when she hit the court against Gauff.

After Wimbledon last year, Kenin was ranked world No. 4; in Atlanta, she was No. 419 when she hit the court against Gauff. 

Though she wasn’t able to show her best tennis, Kenin’s competitive drive and sky-high expectations were practically a neon display: every few points, after an unforced error, she would become visibly frustrated with herself. If she missed a makeable shot, Kenin would scold herself as if she was competing on Rod Laver Arena, instead of in a fun, no-stakes contest serving as an amuse-bouche for fans before the Nick Kyrgios (and Thanasi Kokkinakis) show landed in Atlanta.

And over her shoulder, dad and reinstated coach Alex Kenin was also keeping up a steady stream of dialogue, complete with his familiar exaggerated hand gestures. By the time his daughter went down a set and a break at 6-1, 2-0, Kenin had a hand on his forehead after nearly every point.

Did we already mention this was an exhibition match?


On the other side of the net, Gauff seemed to have received the memo—the 18-year-old worked her home crowd, hammed it up with the ball kids, and regularly raised a friendly racquet-clap in acknowledgement of Kenin’s winners. When they arrived at match point, Gauff pulled a ball boy out from the back court and handed him the racquet to convert match point himself.

But she was in full flow on the court too, and quickly dialed up her level to match Kenin’s intensity. Gauff, back in the States after a successful European clay and grass-court swing—highlighted by her breakthrough run to the French Open singles and doubles finals—was rock-solid from the baseline and impressed fans with quite a few drop shots and plenty of variety.

“I grew up here and haven’t been back in 10 years. So this is a very warm welcome… my experience here in Atlanta has been fantastic,” Gauff told the crowd, amid cheers.

Ultimately, she would prove to be too much for Kenin on Monday night in Georgia. But Gauff may have given Kenin exactly what she needed ahead of her Washington D.C. return: a yardstick to measure her progress against, in the form of one of the WTA’s most in-form players.