WATCH: Belinda Bencic joins the Tennis Channel Live desk following her 2022 Charleston final victory.

Playing in the first clay-court final of her career, 25-year-old Belinda Bencic came full circle in Charleston as she held off Ons Jabeur across three tight sets to win her sixth career title, and her first on clay, at the same WTA tournament where she first broke through as a teen prodigy.

After racing out to a fast start against the No. 4-seed, No. 21-ranked Bencic had to survive a mid-match comeback from an inspired opponent. She hit the mental reset button, and raised her level before coming away with the 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 victory in two hours and 36 minutes.

She also became the tournament’s first Swiss champion since 1999, following in the footsteps of Martina Hingis—whose mom, Melanie Molitor, was one of Bencic’s childhood coaches.

“This means so much to me, because this was my first tournament where I kind of made my breakthrough when I was 17 years old; I played the semifinals. It means so much for me to win this tournament, because when I lost in the semifinal I was not sure if I would ever get another chance,” Bencic said during the trophy ceremony.

As a teenager, Bencic stormed the pro ranks and quickly made a name for herself, contesting her first WTA tournaments shortly after her 14th birthday. She reached the US Open quarterfinals by 17, and a year later in 2015, she joined the WTA winners’ circle with her first title in Eastbourne.


As a 17-year-old, Bencic reached her first WTA semifinal in Charleston during her 2014 breakthrough season.

As a 17-year-old, Bencic reached her first WTA semifinal in Charleston during her 2014 breakthrough season.

But the Swiss has struggled with injuries throughout her career, which have resulted in lengthy layoffs and a drop down the rankings—Bencic broke the Top 10 in 2016, but by the end of 2017 she was ranked outside the Top 70 and fighting her way back.

The 2019 WTA Comeback Player of the Year is hoping those troubles are firmly in the rear-view mirror. Bencic is now a Top 20 fixture once again, and the reigning Olympic gold medalist and now six-time WTA titleist looks set to continue her steady rise back to the top.

After reaching the semifinals in Miami—losing in a tight three sets to Naomi Osaka—Bencic made the quick turnaround to the green clay of Charleston, where she’s been pushed to the limit in almost all of her matches and tested mentally throughout a rainy week.

She had to come back from a set down against Wang Xiyu in her opening match, and fend off Linda Fruvirtova—the WTA’s newest teen prodigy—in a second-set tiebreak a round later. Bencic took down No. 9 seed Madison Keys and No. 2 seed Paula Badosa in back-to-back matches, before moving past Ekaterina Alexandrova to face Jabeur in her first clay-court final.


Bencic lifted her sixth WTA trophy, and her first on clay, in Charleston with a win over Jabeur in the final.

Bencic lifted her sixth WTA trophy, and her first on clay, in Charleston with a win over Jabeur in the final.

It didn’t take long—just one point—before the drop shot made its first appearance, as the two creative shotmakers played for what would be the first title of the year for each. Bencic and Jabeur were technically facing off for the second time, but their head-to-head history didn’t provide a good predictor as Jabeur was forced to withdraw in the second set of their Madrid match last year.

Jabeur made a strong start to the match and held serve comfortably, but things quickly unraveled as Bencic began to dictate the rhythm. The Swiss player never faced a break point in the first set, and won 90% of her first-serve points to close it out 6-1.

The fourth seed fought tooth and nail to get back into the contest, and was finally rewarded late in the second set as Bencic seemed to be tightening up. As her opponent kept up a steady, irate dialogue with her team, Jabeur began to chip away—the pair traded breaks of serve twice across a closely contested second set, before she finally broke through to send them into a decider.

But the No. 21-ranked Swiss was never far behind, and dialed up her first serve again to take back control in the third set. Bencic broke serve three times, and converted her second match point when Jabeur’s forehand return went long.


"At some point, I really didn't know what to do anymore against Ons," Bencic told Tennis Channel Live's Steve Weissman after the match. "In the second and third sets, she was playing incredible and pushing me hard. I just tried to fight and stay in there, and stay calm.

"I'm really happy that I pulled it out, for the first time, on the clay."

For Jabeur, the defeat added another heartbreak to her fraught history with this venue—although some of her best clay-court results have come on Charleston’s green stuff, Jabeur has experienced some tough defeats here, including in the final of last year’s WTA 250 event. And despite reaching a career-high Top 10 ranking, the 27-year-old has only taken home one trophy, 2021 Birmingham, and reached three WTA finals.

“I told myself not to cry, but it’s very tough because we’ve been working very hard. I don’t know how many finals we’ve lost now, but hopefully it’s going to come soon,” Jabeur told the crowd afterward, through tears.

With the title, Bencic is projected to jump up to No. 13 in the rankings on Monday, while runner-up Jabeur is set to rise to No. 9, according to the WTA’s website.