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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Sofia Kenin

Sofia Kenin stormed back from a one-set, 1-4 deficit to defeat Jessica Pegula and book her spot in the Yarra Valley Classic quarterfinal and a possible AO final rematch.

Photo credit: David Gray/Getty

Slapping herself on the thigh, Sofia Kenin exhorted herself to ignite a fight back.

Staring down a one-set, 1-4 deficit to Jessica Pegula, Kenin stopped beating up on herself and climbed off the canvas for another spirited comeback.

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The Australian Open champion fought off Pegula 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 posting her ninth straight win in Melbourne Park to advance to the Yarra Valley Classic quarterfinals.

It wasn't always pretty—Kenin committed 10 double faults, including five in the final set—but the second seed summoned the warrior within doing her part to set up a rematch of the 2020 Australian Open final.

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If Garbine Muguruza defeats 11th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova later today she will square off against Kenin in a marquee quarterfinal clash.

A year ago, Kenin conquered world No. 1 Ash Barty and Muguruza in succession claiming her maiden major at Melbourne Park.

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Playing her first tournament in a year, the top-seeded Barty beat Marie Bouzkova 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 moving into the last eight against American Shelby Rogers.

A resurgent Rogers stopped seventh-seeded Petra Martic 7-6(1), 6-3 yesterday.

Former Washington, DC champion Pegula was winless in five prior matches vs. Top 10 opponents, but came out firing with strong self-belief. 

Changing direction on her drives, Pegula wrong footed Kenin earning a fifth set point in the opening set.  Kenin coughed up her fourth double fault to end it. Serving with more command, Pegula won 16 of 18 first-serve points with three aces in the 45 minute opener.  

Still struggling to coral her forehand, Kenin slapped a forehand into the net and sailed another beyond the baseline donating the break at love in her first service game of the second set.

Pegula played with purpose, moved with confidence and hit down the line with conviction. Pegula pumped her fifth ace down the middle then drilled a deep second serve confirming the break for a 3-0 lead seven minutes into the second set.

Throughout the second set, Pegula produced the right shot at the right time. Pounding her sixth ace down the middle to hold for 4-1, Pegula erupted with a firm come on bouncing to her seat in control.

The world No. 64 had won her lone prior meeting vs. Kenin at the 2018 Quebec City and was two games from her first Top 10 win.

Kenin wasn't having it. The French Open finalist began stepping in the court, taking the ball earlier and cranked crosscourt shots with more precision. 

Kenin answered with her most convincing service game stamping a shutout hold in the sixth game.

Swinging more freely, Kenin was soon pushing back fiercely tagging the edge of the sideline with a forehand pass that helped her break back at 15 for 3-4. A return right down the middle jammed Pegula prompting a netted reply. The Australian Open champion broke back for 5-4.

Once she found her range, Kenin was hitting with more confidence. She ended the second set with a love hold and started the thid with a love break tearing through eight of the last 10 games to close in two hours, four minutes.


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