Belinda Bencic Claims First WTA Title in Eastbourne
Bencic won her maiden WTA title with a 6-4 4-6 6-0 win over Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska at the Aegon International in Eastbourne.
The 18-year-old Swiss, who had reached the final in s’Hertogenbosch earlier this month, regrouped after dropping the second set and coasted through the decider as her opponent faded.
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It capped off a superb week for Bencic, who overcame defending champion Madison Keys, British hopeful Johanna Konta, as well as Eugenie Bouchard and Caroline Wozniacki after they had to withdraw.
She said: “I was very focused and I played very free. I was disappointed I didn’t close out the second set and I was starting to get tired but then I started (the third set) very focused. I (got to) 3-0, so after than I relaxed a little bit and could close it out.
“I have so much confidence now that I played the final, said Bencic. “I have nothing to prove at Wimbledon and can just play relaxed and be satisfied with my results.”
On a windy day on the south coast of England, the opening six games of the first set went with serve before Bencic was able to forge out a break in the seventh, only to relinquish it in the following game. However, Radwanska could not press on and dropped serve again in the ninth – after initially saving two break points – and Bencic wrapped up the set in the following game, converting on her second set point.
A more focussed Radwanska started the second brightly, coming to the net more often and finding more winners as she leapt into a 3-0 lead, but Bencic broke back after a lengthy fifth game. A hard fought contest reached its peak in the latter half of the set as five consecutive games went to at least deuce, yet each player managed to hold serve until late on. Eventually, the Swiss was broken in the 10th game to hand Radwanska the set, shortly after she failed to capitalise on a break point, which would have allowed her to serve for the title.
The Pole looked to have seized the initiative after fighting to level up the battle and her 14 titles to Bencic’s none suggested it would be hers for the taking. However, as in her semi-final in Nottingham against Monica Niculescu, Radwanska’s challenge faded dramatically in the deciding set while her adversary produced her most consistent tennis of the final.
The ninth seed could only stave off one of the four break opportunities afforded to Bencic in the third set as the youngster surged clear, losing just 10 points in the entire set on her way to sealing the victory in the most comfortable fashion.
The Premier win moves Bencic up to a career-high ranking of 24 and will leave her brimming with confidence ahead of Wimbledon which begins in earnest on Monday. Radwanska’s first appearance in a final in 2015 sees her advance two spots in the rankings to 11th, and signals her as a dark horse for the grass court slam despite her defeat at Devonshire Park.
Bencic will arrive at Wimbledon as the 30th seed and will clash with Tsvetana Pironkova in the first round – who fell in the Eastbourne quarter-finals to Radwanska – and she is projected to meet Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic in the third round.
Radwanska, meanwhile, begins her quest for a maiden grand slam against Lucie Hradecka, and could face defending champion Petra Kvitova – who is without any competitive tennis on grass this year – in the last 16.
Caroline Garcia and Katarina Srebotnik won their first doubles title as a pair, defeating the Asian team of Yung-jan Chan and Jie Zheng 7-6(5) 6-2.
Srebotnik, who won her third Eastbourne doubles title, commented: “This is our first title together and somehow I had a feeling in Stuttgart when we lost our second final that perhaps third time lucky, so I’m really, really happy for Caroline especially.”
Garcia/Srebotnik will enter Wimbledon as the 10th seeds and are scheduled to play Tereza Smitkova/Xu Yifan in the first round.