Belinda Bencic was on a roll. Not only did the 18-year-old have a great grass season that saw her win her maiden WTA singles title and her first berth in the second week of a Grand Slam, the former junior world number one backed it up with a hard-fought run to the last four in Toronto. Having arrived on Saturday night, less than eight hours after winning the women’s doubles title at the Citi Open, Bencic was forced to adapt to the conditions of the Aviva Centre rather quickly as she had to play Canadian superstar Eugenie Bouchard on Monday evening.
In that encounter, the Swiss pulled away with the opening set and was on the verge of winning in straight sets, but a late fightback from Bouchard prolonged the match for another set. However, the Canadian was unable to continue the moment she had accumulated in the latter stages of the second set, as Bencic pulled away with the final set and ultimately, the win. That win was a big confidence boost for the 18-year-old in many ways because even if Bouchard was not at her best, she fought past a dangerous opponent early and managed to get in a match under the lights on Centre Court, which would ultimately prove to be beneficial for the youngster. In the next three days, Bencic was forced to play three former world number ones and/or Grand Slam finalists, and managed to overcome each and every one of them with flying colours. With wins over Caroline Wozniacki, Sabine Lisicki and Ana Ivanovic, the former junior world number one would have to face the daunting task of going up against the current world number one, Serena Williams.
Williams was having an incredible season, to say the very least. Coming into the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank, the American had lost just one match, and had completed her second Serena Slam. Despite looking sluggish in her first three matches in Toronto, the world number one showed why she’s still the woman to beat, clawing her way back and past crafty and experienced opponents.
Serena Comes Out Firing, Bencic Fights Back
However, Williams looked like a much different player in the first set against Bencic. Firing on all cylinders, the top seed raced out to a 5-1 lead with some deep, powerful play that sent the WTA Rising Star running from corner to corner. Minutes later, Williams would go on take the opening set 6-3.
With the possibility of her dream run at the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank coming to an end at the hands of one of the best players of all-time, Bencic upped her level, keeping her nose in front of Williams for the majority of the second set. Eventually, her efforts were rewarded as she got a break at 4-3, and was given the opportunity to level the semi final at a set apiece. However, Williams, with her trademark fighting spirit, began to raise her level after a short lapse, breaking right back and consolidating the break to restore parity at five-games-all. Unfazed by the world number one’s late fightback, Bencic earned herself an all-important hold of serve that Williams was unable to replicate. A very untidy service game from the American concluded with a double fault handed the 18-year-old another break of serve and the second set, which she won by seven games to five.
Bencic Hangs On to Early Lead, Hands Williams Her Second Loss of 2015
Bencic didn’t stop there. Shortly after winning the second set, the Swiss won five of the next six games to mount a sizeable 5-1 lead, and was given two chances to create the upset of the tournament. Unfortunately for her, nerves got the better of the 18-year-old who had never been in this position before, and Williams took full advantage. Winning three games in a row, the world number one had recovered both breaks of serve and now just trailed 4-5. But Bencic, who was beginning to swing freely again, began to up the ante when she sensed her opportunities, blasting one more inside out forehand winner on match point to secure a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 win over the world number one - the biggest win of her career to date.
To cap off an unforgettable night, moments after Bencic’s victory, fireworks went off inside the Aviva Centre, which has been one of Tennis Canada’s longtime traditions - fireworks are set off on the second Saturday of the tournament, moments after the conclusion of the second women’s singles semi final match.
"I can't describe the feeling right now," Bencic said in her on-court post-match interview. "I was very overwhelmed from the situation on the court, but I'm just so happy the forehand landed in and she couldn't reach it anymore."
"It was an incredible feeling. I have no words."
"I thought she did really well at everything tonight," Williams said. "She really reads the ball well, and she really fought well. I knew that about her already, that she never gives up and she fights hard.
"I felt pretty much in control until I lost the match. I always felt I still had an opportunity to stay in there. And obviously I was down and stuff. But I just wasn't playing well today. It wasn't my day. Hopefully I can have a few more better days."