INDIAN WELLS, Calif.—World No. 23 Belinda Bencic defeated four Top 10 players during her title run in Dubai, and toppled world No. 1 Naomi Osaka in straight sets at Indian Wells. It's not unlike what Bencic in 2015, when the 18-year-old took out four Top 10 players, including Serena Williams, to win Toronto. The Swiss rose as high as No. 7 in 2016, but several injuries, including a wrist surgery in 2017, sent her outside the Top 150 less than two years later.
As she returned, and climbed her way back up the rankings, Bencic played lower-level ITF tournaments—and found she enjoyed playing tennis a lot more.
"It changed my perspective," Bencic said of her journey, at Indian Wells. "I'm so happy to be on the court again. I'm actually enjoying I'm healthy, and I'm not putting the pressure on myself. I know how frustrating it was when I wasn't able to play at all.
"It was very tough moments when your body isn't playing along. But of course then you see all the other athletes, and actually it's very normal. So many athletes, it's just part of our life to have some injury, to have some setbacks. Tell me any Top 10 player that didn't have a surgery yet. Definitely it happened a little bit earlier for me.”
The 23-year-old likes to mix up her game, and has now won 10 straight matches, including wins over Aryna Sabalenka, Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and Petra Kvitova in Dubai. Bencic says it's not just about being physically fit again, though; her mental health was just as critical.
“Of course the hard work when you're healthy again, you can play and you can practice and you can get better," she said. "But another point is also the mental side—that you are more relaxed, because you know that it's not the most important thing if you win the match or lose the match, and you have another chance the next week.
“I didn't realize that so much...the perspective is also one part of now.”
Healthy again, Bencic is now back in the conversation with other talented players in her age group, including Osaka and former French Open Jelena Ostapenko. Their success, however, isn't what Bencic is measuring herself against.
“When you're injured, you don't compare yourself to players that are playing currently. Obviously I was following tennis and I was really happy for them,” said Bencic, who was the first of the group to break through. ''Obviously, they inspired me and maybe I [inspired] them."
Bencic will face No. 5 seed Karolina Pliskova in Thursday's first quarterfinal.