Coach? Motivator? Sofia Kenin’s dad moves, French Open match changes

  • Alexander Kenin, father of Sofia Kenin of the U.S., right, and Emmanuel Planque, coach of France's Fiona Ferro, left, watch the fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament between Kenin and Ferro at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) Alessandra Tarantino

  • Sofia Kenin of the U.S. throws her racket in the fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament against France's Fiona Ferro at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) Alessandra Tarantino

  • Sofia Kenin of the U.S. cries after winning the fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament against France's Fiona Ferro in three sets 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) Alessandra Tarantino

  • France's Fiona Ferro plays a shot against Sofia Kenin of the U.S. in the fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Michel Euler) Michel Euler

  • Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic celebrates winning her fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament against China's Zhang Shuai in two sets 6-2, 6-4, at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Michel Euler) Michel Euler

  • Serbia's Novak Djokovic checks on a linesman after a ball spun off his racket in the fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Russia's Karen Khachanov at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena) Christophe Ena

  • Serbia's Novak Djokovic plays a shot against Russia's Karen Khachanov in the fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Michel Euler) Michel Euler

  • Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas serves against Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene in the third round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Michel Euler) Michel Euler

  • Russia's Andrey Rublev celebrates winning his fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Hungary's Marton Fucsovics at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) Alessandra Tarantino

  • Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta wipes his face in the fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Germany's Daniel Altmaier at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena) Christophe Ena

  • Germany's Daniel Altmaier plays a shot against Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta in the fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena) Christophe Ena

Published: 10/5/2020 5:50:40 PM

PARIS — After Sofia Kenin dropped the opening set in the French Open’s fourth round Monday, her father, Alexander, who is also her coach, switched seats in the stands, plopping himself down right next to her opponent’s coach.

So much for social distancing amid a pandemic.

Whether the elder Kenin’s move, so noticeable in the sea of empty beige seats at Court Philippe Chatrier, actually influenced the outcome can’t be known with any certainty — the chair umpire did give a warning for coaching, which isn’t allowed during Grand Slam matches; the 2020 Australian Open champion said her dad merely helped by “motivating” — things did turn around soon afterward.

Never before a quarterfinalist at any tour-level clay-court tournament, Kenin reached that stage at Roland Garros by making a key adjustment, taking balls sooner and leaving Fiona Ferro less time to operate in the 21-year-old American’s 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory over the last player from France in either singles bracket.

“First of all, I mean, I don’t know, like, why HER coach sat in that section,” said Kenin, who is seeded No. 4, while the 49th-ranked Ferro was unseeded.

“On the right, it’s (for) the higher seed. I would imagine that he would be sitting on the other side. I didn’t really understand why he was sitting there,” the 21-year-old American said, shrugging. “Yeah, I mean, my dad sat there. He tried to help me. ... I mean, he just sat there — and it worked. There’s nothing much to discuss about that.”

As for Emmanuel Planque, Ferro’s coach?

“At the end of the match,” Ferro said with a laugh, “he told me, ‘You didn’t manage to get rid of Sofia, but I couldn’t get rid of her dad.’”

A year ago in Paris, Kenin signaled to the world what she was capable of, upsetting Serena Williams in the third round.

“This used to be a surface that I really don’t like,” said Kenin, who wiped away tears with a towel at match’s end. “Now it’s obviously a surface that I really enjoy playing on.”

She needed to wait a day to find out who she’ll play next, because the match between No. 30 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia and Danielle Collins of the U.S., scheduled for open-air Suzanne Lenglen Court, was postponed by rain.

The other quarterfinal in that half of the draw will be two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova against Laura Siegemund.

Men’s quarterfinals established Monday: No. 1 Novak Djokovic against No. 17 Pablo Carreño Busta or qualifier Daniel Altmaier, and No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas against No. 13 Andrey Rublev.

Djokovic dealt with what amounted to the closest thing to a challenge he’s faced so far in the tournament in his 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 15 seed Karen Khachanov — the 2016 champion has dropped a total of 25 games in four matches. What drew attention was what the 17-time Grand Slam champion termed “very awkward déjà vu.”

It was, to be perfectly clear, entirely an accident, more of a fluke than anything else, when Djokovic stretched wide of the doubles alley to try to return a first-set serve, the ball ricocheting off his racket frame and into the head of a seated line judge.

Still, the moment conjured memories of the U.S. Open, where Djokovic was disqualified from his fourth-round match against Carreño Busta for striking a ball in anger while walking to the sideline that unintentionally hit a line judge in the throat.

On Monday, Djokovic immediately went over to check on the man, who shook it off and signaled a thumbs-up. Djokovic’s match continued apace, putting him in the French Open quarterfinals for the 11th consecutive year, extending a record he — no, not Rafael Nadal — already held.

“I mean, obviously because of what happened in New York, people, I guess, are going to make (a) story out of this,” Djokovic said. “It has happened to me, and to many other players, in the last 15 years that I’ve been on the tour.”

This victory put Djokovic in his 47th Grand Slam quarterfinal, second only to Roger Federer’s 57.

Djokovic is seeking a second French Open championship and 18th major trophy overall. Among men, only Federer, with 20, and Nadal, with 19, have won more.

Tsitsipas and Rublev both dropped the first two sets they played in Paris last week — and now both are making a French Open quarterfinal debut.

Tsitsipas eliminated No. 18 Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 7-6 (9), 6-2 on Sunday; Rublev defeated Marton Fucsovics 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (3).

Their meeting Tuesday will be a rematch of the Hamburg Open final won in three sets by Rublev on Sept. 27, which was Day 1 of the French Open.

“It is very important for me to take this opportunity and fight harder this time, maybe do something better,” Tsitsipas said. “I know he’s a tough cookie.”




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