Belinda Bencic confirmed her place in the world’s top ten when the new rankings come out on Monday after defeating fellow 18-year-old, Daria Kasatkina in the semi-finals of St. Petersburg, 6-4 6-3. I’ve said it so many times this year already but Bencic’s ability to tough out wins is pretty extraordinary… it’s the mark of a champion. Bencic was second best in the first set against Kasatkina; the turning point was Bencic serving at *3-4 where she managed to save three break points. Bencic then went onto break and serve out the set to love, 6-4.
Bencic’s experience in the critical moments showed, as did Kasatkina’s tiredness; the Russian player had a punishing schedule having finished her doubles match in the early hours of Saturday morning after Bencic’s match against Pavlyuchenkova. Kasatkina has a habit of going into her shell and playing a little passively, which i’m sure she will be able to address with time and experience. Her coach is great and kept reinforcing the point that she was in the match and needed to be more aggressive.
Kasatkina, like Bencic, has a very bright future ahead of her and i’m looking forward to see her on the clay, which she says is her favourite surface. Bencic advances to the final where she will play the number two seed, Roberta Vinci. The two WTA tournaments this week have both produced finals with the top two seeds which is very rare!
Vinci rallied from 0-3 down in the first set to defeat Ana Ivanovic, 7-5 6-4. Vinci benefitted from adopting a much more aggressive game plan midway through the first set, charging the net and playing some wonderful points. The key stat was that Vinci won 19 out of 22 points at the net. The first set was close, but Ivanovic’s challenge tailed off towards the end as 29 unforced errors was another telling stat of their semi-final.
Head-to-head record: Bencic and Vinci will be playing each other for the first time on the WTA tour.
Interesting stat: This is Bencic’s first tournament competing as the number one seed and she’s into the final! I’ve run out of superlatives to describe some of the achievements in her career so far. For Vinci, this is also a landmark moment as she will play her first Premier final. Furthermore, she could very well join Bencic in the top ten soon with little points to defend during the first half of 2016.
Final Thoughts: Bencic’s level hasn’t been great this week and Vinci will be her toughest match of the week so far. Playing an opponent for the first time offers many challenges but particularly Vinci who doesn’t play a standard game. I’m intrigued to see how Bencic copes with Vinci’s backhand slices and net charges. The Italian played such a smart match against Ivanovic and will be going for her first title in nearly three years. I’m sticking with my original prediction and going for Bencic to win the final in three sets.