Sofia Kenin's clay-court prep for Roland Garros? A 6-0, 6-0 loss to Victoria Azarenka, 12 days ago in Rome. It was the first time the American had been double-bageled at any level.
On Tuesday in Paris, Kenin got back on the winning track—though it wasn't easy.
Her opponent, No. 125-ranked Russian Liudmila Samsonova, had never won a match at a Grand Slam. But with her powerful groundstrokes she gave the No. 6-ranked Kenin all kinds of trouble throughout the one-hour, 58-minute battle.
After Kenin won three games in a row from 4-3 down to take the opening set, 6-4, Samsonova jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second—weathering a lengthy rain delay along the way—and eventually closed it out, 6-3. She broke in the first game of the third and held to go up 2-0 in the decider.
But the more experienced Kenin won six of the last seven games to sneak it out, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
Samsonova finished the match with more winners than unforced errors, 38 to 35, while Kenin was in the negatives, 26 to 34. But the American was just too solid at the tail end of the first and third sets.
"She's obviously really tough. She played really well," Kenin said in her on-court interview. "I just started putting the ball in the court and fighting for every point. When things weren't going my way, I just tried to find a way to win. She was playing really tough, and really aggressive.
"I just wanted to fight for every point, and that's about it."
Kenin was asked in her post-match press conference whether she had watched or studied her loss to Azarenka in Rome before coming to Roland Garros.
"Well, after I lose a match, I don't like to watch myself," she said. "Even when I'm winning and I know that I won, I still don't like watching myself. Yeah, after Rome, that's a match I never want to watch.
"Of course Vika played well. I'm not going to take anything away. She came out playing some really good tennis. I just obviously felt like I couldn't find my game. After that, we came to Paris and I had a week or so to practice, get used to the clay. But yeah, I just tried not to think about that match.
"That match I'm never gonna watch. It was kind of a disaster."
Kenin is now 11-1 at Grand Slams this year, going 7-0 to win her first major at the Australian Open, 3-1 to reach the fourth round of the US Open—falling to Elise Mertens—and 1-0 so far here.
Awaiting the No. 4 seed in the second round will be No. 93-ranked Romanian Ana Bogdan, who beat Timea Babos earlier in the day, 6-4, 6-2.
Bogdan actually beat Kenin in the pair's only previous encounter in the qualifying of Montreal in 2018, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. But Kenin was nowhere near the player she is now—she was ranked No. 68 at the time.