It was the talking point of the Australian Open draw when it came out as young star Belinda Bencic took on last year's finalist Venus Williams in the opening round. For both players, it was a draw that neither would have liked as the Swiss was hoping for a nice draw to allow her to climb her way back up the ranks while Venus was looking for something more straightforward in the opening round.
Bencic would earn her first-ever win over Venus, defeating her 6-3, 7-5, as she sent last year's finalist packing. By the rankings, it was an upset, but by no means, this was an upset for Bencic, who was a former top-10 player as a teenager. The Swiss will now face either Johanna Larsson or Luksika Kumkhum in the second round.
Bencic Strikes First
If the opening point was an indicator of how the match would go, we knew it would be one to remember as it opened up with Venus hitting a winner down the line to close off a rally of more than a dozen shots. Neither woman was challenged on serve but the winners were coming fast and furious between them with each of them finding angles and hitting some huge groundstrokes as well.
Bencic saw the first opening of the set after a Venus double-fault so set up a 0-30 lead in the seventh game. A backhand from the American just missed to set up triple break point for the Swiss. She took it on her second attempt after Venus dumped a backhand into the net.
Venus took control in the next game putting the pressure back on the Swiss as a low ball in front of the net forced Bencic's volley to head well long to set up triple break back point. Some timely defense from the 20-year-old put her back to deuce and went on to save another with a backhand winner.
Their lengthy game took a delay as the rain began to fall in Melbourne Park. Just as play was set to begin again, the roof was not fully closed all the way as the players sat back down. Bencic held and went on a hot run of five straight points won to go up 5-3, 0-40 for a chance to take the opening set. The Swiss finished off the opening set, taking it 6-3.
Bencic's Forehand Finishes It Off Late
Bencic fell into a hole to open the set, and Venus broke in a much-needed momentum shift for the world number five after the Swiss sent a backhand long. The fifth seed's opening service game was reminiscent of the game where Bencic held her nerve after the rain delay. It was a long drawn out game with opportunities for both players, but Bencic was the one taking her chances more often. Bencic broke back for one apiece.
Venus was looking much more aggressive in the second set, earning herself two more break point chances. A forehand that was unable to be returned gave her the break lead once again. Bencic struck right back though for a fourth consecutive break to start the set.
The Swiss held to give the second a set a much-needed hold, and Venus went on to do the same. Bencic was being challenged once again by the world number five in the seventh game, but a cross-court forehand winner at deuce followed by a long backhand put her up 4-3.
A couple of double-faults from Venus put Bencic ahead 0-30, and once again, it would be a couple of break points after a backhand with great depth found the line on Venus' side. The American was able to fend them off though as a break would have been a crucial blow as Bencic would have been serving for the set.
Despite a poor return game from Bencic in the previous game, she was firing on all cylinders finding some winners to put her up 5-4. A double-fault put the former world number seven just two points away from taking the match. Venus held eventually but was once again had the pressure put on her as the Swiss held after a couple of crafty winners to hold for 6-5.
Another forehand winner for the former world number seven set up match point on Venus' serve. It was the forehand, the shot that did a lot of damage on the night, that finished off the world number five, with another forehand winner to cap it off. Bencic celebrated like she had just won the whole thing, but she deserved it after having played a brilliant match.