Bencic Returns To Charleston Semifinals Eight Years Apart

Belinda Bencic (photo: WTA Tour video)

CHARLESTON, S.C./WASHINGTON, April 9, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

What a difference a year has made in the lives of Spain’s Paula Badosa and Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who met Friday in the quarterfinal round of the WTA 500 Credit One Charleston Open at Daniel Island in the South Carolina lowcountry.

By the end of the match, what a difference eight years makes, too.

A year ago, Badosa defeated Bencic in the second round en route to a semifinal finish of the WTA 500 event on green clay. Since then, the 24-year-old U.S.-born Spaniard has gone on to record a 55-19 win-loss record and win three titles, including Indian Wells in October for the biggest achievement of her career. Meanwhile, Bencic became an Olympic gold medalist in singles and a silver medalist in doubles and has been a nine-time quarterfinalist on the WTA Tour in the past 12 months.

“Last year was really a game changer for Badosa,” said Hall of Famer Tracy Austin, who commented on the latest Badosa-Bencic match for Tennis Channel. The same could hold true for Bencic, too, who has now reached back-to-back semifinals following her run last week at the Miami Open.

As it happened Friday afternoon, Bencic came from down a set and a break and beat the World No. 3 Badosa, 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4, in two hours and 46 minutes to move on to Saturday’s final four for the first time since 2014 with the chance of becoming a first-time Charleston champion. This year, the tournament will crown a first-time winner for the eighth straight year.

“It’s always a really tough match against her,” Badosa said Thursday in describing Bencic. She brought a 3-0 head-to-head record against Bencic into the quarterfinal match on Credit One Stadium. Badosa also beat the Swiss star last May in Madrid and earlier this year in Sydney.

“She plays very well, very fast. We always have a battle. We played already in 2022. I saw her playing this week and she’s playing very well again,” Badosa added.

However, this time would produce a different outcome that favored the 25-year-old Bencic, ranked 21st. She kept her emotions in check and maintained calm at just the right time. Bencic hit 49 winners that overcame 37 unforced errors and she broke the second-seeded Badosa’s serve three times in 10 opportunities. She outpointed her opponent 110-106. Badosa finished with six aces and five double faults to go with 32 winners and 22 unforced errors. She converted four of 14 break points.

Bencic arrived to the quarterfinal match against Badosa after gaining a confidence-boosting 6-4, 6-4 victory over 2019 champion Madison Keys and her momentum and never-say-die attitude pushed her across the finish line with her first win over Badosa.

“Being in the semifinals again I feel really old. I’m 25 and it’s been eight years. I’m so happy and I really love Charleston,” Bencic said during her on-court interview. “The crowd was great.

“I was fighting and trying to find a way [to win]. I’m happy it worked out today.”

Next, Bencic will play No. 54 Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia, who advanced to the quarterfinals with a late-night Thursday win over No. 3 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, then turned around on short rest and beat No. 63 Magda Linette of Poland, 6-0, 6-2, in 62 minutes Friday evening.

Linette, who earned a double-victory Thursday with back-to-back three-set wins over No. 7 seed Leylah Fernandez of Canada and No. 61 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, garnered just 37 percent (16 of 43) of her service points against Alexandrova.

Friday’s Charleston Open results

Saturday’s Charleston Open order of play

Around the Charleston Open

• The top half of the singles draw featured in-form Americans Amanda Anisimova, seeded 15th, and lucky loser Coco Vandeweghe, ranked 168th, in one quarterfinal and No. 4 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia and Ukraine’s 42nd-ranked Anhelina Kalinina in the other quarterfinal.

The 47th-ranked Anisimova arrived to Friday evening’s featured match after knocking off the tournament’s No. 1 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in a tough three setter. It was her fourth career Top 10 victory. She showed no mercy against Vandeweghe and won 6-1, 6-2 in 65 minutes.

“It was super fun playing tonight,” Anisimova said after her victory, which advanced her to her first Charleston semifinal. “I love night matches, so I was really enjoying it out there today.”

Meanwhile, Jabeur earned a return trip to the Charleston semifinals with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Kalinina in 63 minutes. The 10th-ranked Tunisian struck 28 winners, faced just two break points, and converted four of eight break points. She outscored her opponent 58-45.

“A great match, I really enjoyed being there today,” Jabeur said during her on-court interview. “I was trying to be aggressive and take the few shots before her, and playing the game that I like to play, slicing and mixing up the shots. Pretty happy with my performance, and hope I can keep playing like that.”

• In the doubles draw, No. 1 seeds Caroline Dolehide of the United States and Zhang Shuai of China advanced over Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan and Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus, 6-3, 6-2, in a quarterfinal-round match.

By the numbers

No. 42 Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine, who was appearing in just the third WTA quarterfinal of her career Friday against Ons Jabeur, has risen more than 100 places in the WTA Rankings over the past 12 months. A year ago, Kalinina was playing in a $60K ITF clay event in Bellinzona, Switzerland, ranked 161st. What a difference a year makes!

“Quotable …”

“I don’t think I’m feeling any sort of pressure from being a past champion. If anything, it’s just knowing that the year that I didn’t win the title here I didn’t play incredible tennis all the time. I had to figure out how to win some matches and didn’t play my best.

“But just really kind of relied on crowd support and just trying to figure things out to win, and just kind of remembering that in any sort of tough moments is actually helpful.”

Madison Keys, 2019 Credit One Charleston Open champion, on if there is any different kind of pressure when you’ve been a champion in a tournament and come back to play it. Keys won her second-round match but lost in the third round to No. 10 seed Belinda Bencic.