SUMMERLIN, November 11, 2018 (by Steve Pratt)
Her racket solidly in her hand the entire match, top-seeded Belinda Bencic advanced to the singles final at the Red Rock Pro Open on Saturday with a 6-1, 6-4 win over unseeded Kurumi Nara of Japan.
Bencic said after the match that she played better than her quarterfinal struggle against No. 6 seed Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic on Friday in which she lost the first set 1-6 before posting 6-4, 6-4 set wins. She repeatedly smashed her racket onto the court and fumbled it to the ground on numerous occasions.
“Yesterday I didn’t play my best and I let my emotions show,” said Bencic, who has career wins over Serena Williams and world No. 1 Simona Halep. “I’m just that kind of player. I know it looks bad sometimes for the people watching, but it’s a sport and I’ll never be a calm player.”
Bencic’s serve was broken in the first game of the second set as she had a 40-15 lead before Nara came back to earn the break. “I should have won that game, but had a letdown,” Bencic said. “I’m excited to be in the final and really happy I made the semis last week and now the final. Houston (WTA $125,000) is my last tournament next week. Then I’m looking forward to having 10 days off for holiday then back to start training.”
The 21-year-old Bencic of Switzerland, a former world junior No. 1 who reached a career high in singles of No. 7 in 2016, will face former Stanford University star and No. 8-seeded Nicole Gibbs in Sunday’s 2:30 p.m. final which will be televised live on Tennis Channel in the USTA Pro Circuit $80,000 tournament.
It will be the first career meeting between Bencic and Gibbs, who came back to be qualifier and practice partner Giuliana Olmos, 6-2, 6-4. It was the 24th match in 20 days for the 25-year-old Olmos, who is just one day younger than Gibbs.
“I know her game so well I found myself actually over running some shots because I knew exactly where she was hitting,” said Olmos, who played college tennis at USC but had never faced her friend Gibbs in a junior, college or professional match.
Gibbs played in the inaugural Red Rock Pro Open in 2009 and made the final round of qualifying as a 16-year-old junior. In her only other Las Vegas appearance she won the doubles and made a run to the semifinals in 2015.
Gibbs, who is coached by WTA veteran Craig Kardon, was forced to pull out of her doubles semifinal match on Saturday because on an ailing knee issue, but said it did not bother her against Olmos, who held a 4-1 lead in the second set before Gibbs rallied to win the next five straight games.
“She’s playing really well here and likes the conditions and really took it to me in the second set anytime I left it a little short,” Gibbs said. “We know each other so well we both knew what to expect. Her first serve has definitely gotten stronger and she is in good form. We’ve probably played 50 practice matches against each other.”
Gibbs said playing Bencic will be like night and day compared to playing Olmos. “She’s going to come at me with a lot of power and pace and I just have to stay patient and be aggressive,” she said.
In the doubles final to follow the 2:30 singles final, Las Vegas’ Asia Muhammad and Maria Sanchez will take on fellow American’s Sophie Chang and Alexandra Mueller.