MATCH POINT: Bencic dismisses Ziyas

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At Wimbledon, Belinda Bencic's tournament was abruptly ended when she was knocked out in the first round by Kaja Juvan. That disappointing defeat soon fell into Bencic's rearview mirror however, thanks to a strong run on hard courts that included becoming the Olympic champion in Tokyo.

Following her gold-medal performance, the Swiss reached the quarterfinals at Cincinnati and then the US Open, where she ran into eventual champion Emma Raducanu. On Thursday, Bencic launched her bid at a WTA stop she holds close to her heart: Luxembourg. The top seed swept past Zarina Diyas, 6-1, 6-3, after breaking serve five times in the one-hour contest.

“Luxembourg was my first ever WTA tournament in qualies and main draw. I was 14 and 15 years old when I played, so I have great memories,” Bencic reflected in her Zoom press conference afterwards. “That’s why I feel very nice coming here. It’s a special atmosphere, obviously you never forget these kinds of things.”

Bencic shared she is feeling strong physically and mentally, with “good momentum” on her side. The 24-year-old entered this week ranked 19th in the race to the WTA Finals, though it’s worth pointing out Bencic’s triumph at the Tokyo Olympics did not come with a points contribution. Her gap at the start of the week from the woman currently occupying the No. 8 spot, Garbiñe Muguruza, is not insurmountable to overcome at 732 points.

“I want to play a lot still and see until Indian Wells if it would be possible to qualify or not. Then reevaluate from there,” she said. “It’s makeable because it’s not such a big point difference. I’ll definitely try and make it. Maybe improve in the race and then see what else I will play or take it more easy.”

With her win against Diyas, Bencic is now 31-16 in 2021.

With her win against Diyas, Bencic is now 31-16 in 2021.

Earlier this week, the WTA announced its year-end championships were being moved from Shenzhen to Guadalajara. While Ash Barty’s coach Craig Tyzzer cast doubts over the host city’s playing environment, Bencic doesn’t believe it will be a problem if she finds a way to be there when the race ends.

“I would be very happy to make it to the Top 8, so I wouldn’t mind playing on the moon,” said Bencic, who reached the semifinals on her debut in 2019. “It might be a little bit different than usual, but I found last time in China it was also very special conditions. It was the slowest I’ve ever played. Maybe now, it's just different.

“We are tennis players, we always have to adapt to the different conditions.”

Bencic next takes on seventh seed Liudmila Samsonova Friday at the indoor-hard event. The Russian rallied over three sets to win their Berlin final meeting in June.