At the end of 2017, Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic was nearly untouchable on the court: Working her way back from injury and a loss of form over the prior year, she closed out the season with three titles between the ITF and WTA $125,000 levels to make a return to the top 100.
Fast forward more than a year later and the 21-year-old appears destined for even greater heights than she previously attained.
Unseeded and undaunted, Bencic captured the Dubai Open with a three-set win over Petra Kvitova in the final. Going into the match, Kvitova held a 3-0 lead in head-to-head encounters against Bencic, having never dropped a set, which included their most recent run-in at this year’s Australian Open in the third round.
Bencic ended her sets-lost streak to Kvitova in the first frame of the championship match by getting an early break for a 4-1 lead and holding on to take the opener 6-3. Kvitova, who was trying to win her second title of the year and return to the No. 2 spot in the rankings, had no trouble turning the tide as she took the second set 6-1. However, Bencic notched an early break in the decider and another one late to serve for the title at 5-2, clinching it when Kvitova struck a forehand long on her second match point.
Kvitova wasn’t the only member of the top 10 to fall to Bencic over the course of the week. In the third round, she fought off multiple match points to stun world No. 9 Aryna Sabalenka, then followed that up with a three-set win over No. 3 Simona Halep in the quarters. As was the case with her match against Sabalenka, Bencic came through in another third-set tiebreak in the semifinals, this time against two-time defending champion and last year’s WTA Finals winner Elina Svitolina.
All of those consecutive wins against the game’s best conjured up memories of her last title-winning run at the WTA level, the 2015 Rogers Cup in Toronto. Back then, each of the six players she beat en route to the crown had reached at least one Grand Slam final in their career, and four of them were in the top 10 at the time: Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, Serena Williams and Halep. That surprise triumph landed her a spot among those four for the first time in her career.
It was expected that her stay among the top 10 would be a long one, but unfortunately, fate had other plans. However, after this latest victory—which will bring her back to the world’s top 30—it seems that destiny is once again on her side, and the comeback that started in the WTA’s minor outposts will net her more of the game’s most prestigious prizes.
ATP Rio De Janeiro
• Starting Monday 2/18, at 2:30 pm ET, catch live coverage of the Rio Open featuring Dominic Thiem, Fabio Fognini, and Diego Schwartzman.
• Watch Naomi Osaka, Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova live from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships starting Saturday, 2/16 at 3:00 am ET
• Tennis Channel Plus features live coverage of the Hungarian Ladies Open beginning Monday, 2/18 8:00 am ET
ATP Delray Beach
• Watch Juan Martin del Potro, John Isner and Frances Tiafoe live on Tennis Channel Plus beginning Tuesday, 2/19 at 12:30 am ET.
• See Karen Khachanov, Borna Coric and Stefanos Tsitsipas live on Tennis Channel Plus beginning Monday 2/18, 8:30 am ET