Belinda Bencic continued her superb recent run of form to reach the semi-finals of the 2015 Rogers Cup and set up a semi-final date with Serena Williams on Saturday night. Bencic backed up her wins over Eugenie Bouchard, Caroline Wozniacki and Sabine Lisicki to score her fourth top 25 win of the week with an excellent 6-4 6-2 victory over Ana Ivanovic.
I really enjoyed the first set with the momentum constantly switching from side-to-side. Ivanovic was dangerous on return and managed to hit her fair share of winners, but it was Bencic’s ability to read the play, redirect the ball and constantly keep Ivanovic guessing and on the move that was most telling. After the pair both played poor service games from 3-3, Bencic won the next two games, serving out the set to 15. There were a number of games where Bencic raced out into a lead and then Ivanovic showed some resilience to fight back. The Serb started to crumble a little towards the end of the set with her footwork and backhand both letting her down. There were many lengthy games in the second set but it was Bencic who won the crucial ones at the beginning of the set.
After a disappointing start to the year, Bencic is really starting to roll; the Swiss player will move into the world’s top 16 in next week’s rankings and has won 19 of her last 23 matches. While I hold my hands up and admit that i’ve gone against Belinda for the last two matches (annoyed with myself!), i’ve always been pro-Belinda, both in believing that she was the real deal and being a fan. In case people start labelling me as a bandwagoner, please read my preview from Indian Wells earlier this year where I wrote in detail about Belinda’s slow start to the year.
Bencic didn’t win her first WTA main draw match until February and also went 2-5 during the clay court season. You could already sense people were beginning to doubt her and the hype was fading. However, at just 18 years old, there will be ups and downs and I think it is important to recognise that she is still very inexperienced and needs time. As a principle in life and not just tennis, you learn most from mistakes and not necessarily succeeding every time and I think this is where Bencic excels, learning from her losses and working out what she needs to do the next time.
One thing that has been so impressive from Bencic is her ability to bounce back. Last year, she suffered a number of heavy losses against the top players. In Istanbul, Bencic lost 6-0 6-0 to Caroline Wozniacki and then in Beijing, she won just three games against Ana Ivanovic. In her matches against Wozniacki and Ivanovic this year, she has completely turned the tables and scored straight set wins. While Bencic is still very emotional on court, she seems to be using it more to her advantage this year as her experience grows. She went through a period where she suffered quite a couple of tough three set losses but all the wins on the grass seemed to have brought back that winning feeling.
Courtney Nguyen for the WTA Insider wrote a great piece about Belinda HERE. The ATP could learn a thing or two about how to market their players…
Bencic faces the ultimate test against, Serena Williams in the semi-finals after the world number one defeated Roberta Vinci in the quarter-finals, 6-4 6-3 in 78 minutes. In the WTA Insider piece, Belinda talked about when she first faced Serena in Madrid last year.
When I played Serena in Madrid the first time, I already was like – I wasn’t even playing. I was just staring at her like I’m playing her, you know?
So can Bencic turn it around again, this time against Serena? I actually think Bencic could give Williams a decent test in this match. Her court movement and ability to get balls back into play could frustrate Serena. The one factor in Bencic’s game that will be vulnerable is the serve, particularly the second serve. It was impossible to call at the start of the week where Serena’s mindset would be for this tournament but now that she’s into the semi-finals, it seems likely she’d want to go all the way. I’d fancy Bencic to win a set… this is because of the way that she has been playing and also because Serena’s level through tournaments has fluctuated rather significantly, even if she has been crownded champion at the end of it.
Hope it’s a good one. Bleurghhhh at it being the night match! Enjoy everyone who can watch it 🙂
If you’re a fan or just interested in following Belinda’s progress on the tour, I couldn’t recommend more following @FanofBencic (#TeamBelinda) on Twitter, one of the best fan accounts out there for any player.