Timea Bacsinszky, Belinda Bencic and Martina Hingis have all been nominated as the 2015 Swiss Sportswoman of the Year, an award aimed to recognize the success of Switzerland’s best female athletes.
In brief, this award will be given to the winner along with a number of other awards at the Credit Suisse Sports Awards, a ceremony held every December to honour the achievements of professional Swiss athletes. This year, the awards will be held on Sunday, December 13th. Unlike other awards shows, the winner is determined by 50% of votes from Swiss journalists and 50% of votes from the audience watching at home. There has been much controversy over this format as journalists and fans may have differing views and an athlete might win because they have accumulated more fan votes than media votes, or vice versa.
Along with the likes of alpine skier Lara Gut, artistic gymnast Giulia Steingruber and triathlete Nicola Spirig, Bacsinszky, Bencic and Hingis were all nominated thanks to their many successes in 2015, whether it’d be in singles, doubles or both.
Bacsinszky’s Incredible Season
Even if a knee injury ended her 2015 season prematurely, Timea Bacsinszky could still look back at her career-best season with a lot of fond memories and emotions. The Lausannoise resident came into this season without many expectations, but she seemed to go above and beyond what anyone was expecting of her.
Three months into the year and Bacsinszky, who took a break from tennis a couple of years ago to study hotel management, was on a tear. After winning two WTA International-level titles in Acapulco and Monterrey, the Swiss number one went on a hot streak, winning fifteen matches in a row before losing to world number one Serena Williams in Indian Wells. A couple of months later, Bacsinszky continued to deliver the goods, battling past big hitting Madison Keys and Petra Kvitova en route to making the semi final of the French Open, before losing to Williams again. Despite the loss, the 26-year-old picked up a lot of fans, and was quickly closing in on a spot in the top 10. Less than a month later, she advanced to the quarter final of Wimbledon, defeating grass-court specialist Sabine Lisicki before being defeated in straight sets by eventual finalist Garbiñe Muguruza.
The next few months of the season were extremely difficult for Bacsinszky, as all of the tennis she had played in the first half of the season began to take its toll on her emotionally and physically. She began to lose her confidence with every match, and at one point in the season, found herself on a five match losing streak.
However, the Swiss picked up her game at the China Open in Beijing, one of the last tournaments of the arduous 2015 season. Down a set and a break to Camila Giorgi in her opening round match and looking seemingly out of sorts, Bacsinszky rallied to earn herself a much-needed win. That win seemed to be the springboard she needed as she fought past Mariana Duque-Mariño, seventh seed Carla Suárez Navarro, Sara Errani and Ana Ivanovic before losing to Muguruza in the final. Despite the loss, the 26-year-old’s runner-up showing at the final Premier Mandatory event of the season was enough for her to break into the top 10 for the very first time. Bacsinszky joined Martina Hingis, Patty Schnyder and Manuela Maleeva as the four Swiss women to ever break into the top 10 of the WTA rankings.
Now sitting at number 12 in the year-end rankings, Bacsinszky is keeping the bar low for herself as she heads into 2016. “Believe it or not - I still don’t have any goals,” she said. “I just want to get better with every match.”
This will be Bacsinszky’s first time being a nominee in the Sportswoman of the Year category but if she is able to continue her 2015 form, she could be nominated and a major contender for this award in the years to come.
Brilliant Bencic’s Stunning Year
Belinda Bencic’s talent was never in question. At an early age, she began to work with Melanie Molitor — the mother of Martina Hingis, in order to hone her craft and develop into the player she had once dreamed about. At the age of 16, Bencic won the junior French Open and Wimbledon titles and ascended to the junior world number one ranking, a big feat for someone young. After a successful transition season in 2014, the current 18-year-old came into 2015 excited and ready to make a major breakthrough.
Unfortunately, that breakthrough didn’t come easy for the Flawil native. In the first two months of the season, Bencic won just one of the six matches she played, and looked out of sorts against players she would normally beat.
Fortunately, things began to turn around during the short grass season. After making her maiden WTA singles final in ’s-Hertogenbosch, Bencic followed it up with a title winning run at the Aegon International in Eastbourne. En route to the final, the 18-year-old beat the likes of Madison Keys, Eugenie Bouchard and Caroline Wozniacki before taking out Agnieszka Radwanska in a highly-entertaining final. That title seemed to catapult the WTA rising star to bigger and greater things, as she made the fourth round of Wimbledon and won her biggest title to date at the 2015 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank just over a month later. An unseeded but dangerous floater in the 64-player draw, Bencic dashed Canadian hopes by defeating Eugenie Bouchard in her opener, and went on to defeat Caroline Wozniacki, Sabine Lisicki, Ana Ivanovic, Serena Williams and Simona Halep - all of which have contested in a Grand Slam final.
After her surprise run to the title in Toronto, the Swiss had a few problems with consistency in the latter stages of the year, but managed to string together some great wish to make it to the final of the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.
Along with her singles successes, Bencic also tasted victory on the doubles court. Alongside Katerina Siniakova, she picked up her first WTA doubles title in Prague, and backed it up three and a half months later with Kristina Mladenovic in Washington D.C. Having never played with the Frenchwoman before, winning the title was an impressive feat, let alone winning the title without dropping a set.
This is the second time Bencic has been nominated for a Credit Suisse Sports Award. In 2013, she was nominated for the “Newcomer of the Year Award” and ended up winning, beating out Paralympic wheelchair racer Marcel Hug and artistic gymnast Giulia Steingruber for the award.
Hingis’ Masterclass Year in Doubles
Ever since her return to professional tennis, Martina Hingis has been working hard to regain some of the form that got her to number one in the world. After making the final of last year’s U.S. Open with Flavia Pennetta, Hingis was eager to begin her 2015 campaign on the right foot. Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan for Hingis and Pennetta as they failed to advance past the third round in the first two months of the season. As a result, the pair had to make the difficult but logical decision to split up because of their poor start to the season, as well as Pennetta's desire to focus more on singles than doubles.
Soon after her split with Pennetta, Hingis teamed up with Sania Mirza, and they hit it off right away. In their first three tournaments as a team, they completed the Indian Wells, Miami and Charleston sweep, winning all three titles on American soil in successive weeks. Despite a subpar rest of the clay season, Hingis and Mirza made an impressive rebound at Wimbledon, defeating Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in three sets to capture the title — Mirza’s first Grand Slam women’s doubles title and Hingis’ eighth. They backed up that stunning victory with an undefeated run in New York and Asia, confirming their status as the best doubles team of 2015. It all started at the U.S. Open where Hingis and Mirza, affectionately known as “Mingis” by their fans, cruised to their second Grand Slam title of the season without dropping a set. In Asia, Mingis went on another tear, winning titles in Guangzhou, Wuhan, Beijing and ultimately the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global in Singapore to cap off an incredible season.
But, that wasn’t all the success that Hingis enjoyed on a doubles court. The 35-year-old also won three out of the four Grand Slams in mixed doubles with Leander Paes. Playing together for the first time at a Grand Slam, Hingis and Paes used their experience and doubles expertise to carve their way to the title. Despite getting knocked out in the second round of the French Open, the Swiss-Indian duo resiliently rebounded to cruise to the Wimbledon title without losing more than four games in one set. Capping off the end of the year, Hingis and Paes benefited from a couple of withdrawals before outdoing their opponents in the semi final and final to capture their third major of the season (as a team).
Hingis has won the Swiss Sportswoman of the Year Award before, but that came back in 1997 when she won four Grand Slams, three in women's singles and one in women's doubles.