Three takeaways from Coco Gauff’s early exit — and Sofia Kenin’s return to Wimbledon

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Billed from the draw as a can’t-miss Round 1 matchup, Coco Gauff vs. Sofia Kenin at Wimbledon did not disappoint. The Americans, who previously split two head-to-head matchups, went the distance in just over two hours. In the end, Kenin eliminated the seventh-seeded Gauff in a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 stunner and will face China’s Xinyu Wang in the second round, while Gauff prepares for her first doubles match with teammate Jessica Pegula on Wednesday.

Here are three takeaways from Monday’s Gauff-Kenin match in London:

This should not have been a first-round match

Much like Venus Williams vs. Elina Svitolina, this was the bad luck of the draw and a matchup better saved for a later round. For the second time in four appearances, Gauff has faced a fellow American and former Grand Slam champion in the first round at Wimbledon (Venus Williams in 2019), but as the No. 7 seed, this especially stings.

Kenin is a real contender

The 25-year-old has struggled this season but looks to be in pre-pandemic form at Wimbledon. Kenin won her only major at the 2020 Australian Open, finished runner-up in Roland Garros that spring and rose to No. 4 in the world. Since then, she’s battled injuries and poor form and has never advanced past the second round at Wimbledon. But she flew through her three qualifying matches without dropping a set and played with power and confidence from the jump Monday.

“Oh, my God. I can’t even, like, talk,” Kenin said in her postmatch TV interview. “I’m super happy. Coco played a tough match. I knew I needed to play my best in order to win.”

Against arguably the best mover on the women’s tour — in the third game of the second set, Gauff fell on her rear sliding to connect on a forehand, jumped up, dashed to the opposite sideline and made the next two shots to take the point — Kenin matched Gauff’s court coverage. She also made the most of her second-serve opportunities, winning 76% of them while attacking Gauff’s second serves, taking 61% from the 19-year-old. Kenin was also the steadier, mentally tougher player Monday, which will serve her well the remainder of the fortnight.

Gauff’s forehand is still failing her

And Kenin took advantage of it, hitting to Gauff’s forehand 44% of the time and forcing her into 16 errors. Gauff’s forehand woes have followed her since her finals run at Roland Garros last year, but she said recently that she feels more comfortable being aggressive on that side of the ball. Still, she struggled with the shot on Monday, didn’t go to the net as much as expected and drew Kenin into several long rallies, which left her forehand open to attack.

When asked after the match what she feels she needs to work on in the coming months, Gauff said, “Taking care of my service games. I do think I’m a better server than [Kenin], but she took care more of the plus-ones and plus-twos a lot better than I did. And, obviously, my forehand, being more aggressive on those shots.”

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