Belinda Bencic received the first lucky loser opportunity of her career at this year's Connecticut Open. After a 7-6, 7-6 loss to 18-year-old Dayana Yastremska in the final round of qualifying, the Swiss was gifted a second life into the tournament when world number one Simona Halep withdrew from an Achilles injury.
“I felt in quali[fying] that I was getting better match to match…I lost really close [to Yastremska], so that was negative. I’m happy to get this second chance,” Bencic said.
After being sidelined by a left wrist injury for five months, No. 43 Bencic has reached the highest ranking since before her wrist surgery. While away, the Swiss’ ranking dropped outside of the top 300, but she climbed her way back to the top 75 by the end of the 2017 season after winning two ITF events and two WTA 125k Series events.
Bencic's level continues to improve
On Tuesday, however, the former world No.7 showed more signs of consistency: both mentally and within her game. Against the player who formerly defeated her in 2015 to win the ‘s-Hertogenbosch title, Bencic hit 21 winners to 30 unforced errors, and converted six of her 14 break chances.
“I’m just feeling better on the court. I felt the ball better, I’m serving better. I got more balls back. I don’t think I improved by 100 percent, but I think I was mentally stronger,” Bencic said.
In a match ultimately distinguished by two breaks of serve, Bencic proved the stronger player, edging Giorgi 6-4, 6-4.
“You don’t get a lot of rhythm [against Giorgi]. It’s very difficult mentally against her, because you have to be very patient,” Bencic said.
Her team, too, has been crucial in helping her to stay positive amid the ups and downs of her return to tennis. Bencic earned match points and lost in Washington against Andrea Petkovic and again in Cincinnati against Christina McHale. Against Giorgi, however, it took the Swiss just two match points to seal a straight sets victory.
“The team really helped me…we have the same kind of mentality. If you keep working, it’s going to go forward but you can’t expect it to go in one day,” Bencic said. “They’re really making me be more patient than I am normally. I feel like the team is really complete.”
Altering her expectations
One of the keys to Bencic's recent success has been the mindset with which she evaluates each match.
“I am really trying to feel like [an underdog]. In Washington and Cincinatti I really thought I should win and I wanted too much, and for me, it’s worse when I want too much," Bencic said. "Now, I’m trying to tell myself that actually, I’m getting back. I’m not trying to look at the rankings, I’m trying to look at my form and realize that I didn’t play for two years like everyone else did so I’m still catching up. [I'm] not expecting too much and just doing my work."
Bencic will face the winner of Aryna Sabalenka and Daria Gavrilova in the quarterfinal round on Thursday.