Switzerland's Belinda Bencic is still just 23 years old, but she's already watching younger players come up behind her—and likes what she's seeing from them.
Bencic reached the final of the Adelaide International, needing three sets against 16-year-old Coco Gauff along the way.
“I was really impressed. Definitely you could see that she's really not the average player. Definitely big respect to her,” Bencic said. “She's a big fighter. She always manages to come back from every score.”
Bencic was also once a teen prodigy, defeating Top 10 players like Caroline Wozniacki, Serena Williams and Simona Halep in 2015 to win Toronto. While injuries have often sidelined her since then, Bencic climbed back up to No. 4 in 2020 with the varied, counterpunching game that was lauded when she first emerged on tour.
Now, she's saying something similar about 19-year-old French Open champ and world No. 15 Iga Swiatek, who defeated her in the final of Adelaide.
“She plays everything just little bit different than I'm expect[ing]. So not the usual patterns which you would expect. I think I'm a pretty good anticipator,” Bencic said. “She plays spin and heaviness. Also the balls you can reach are just like jumping over you. It makes it harder to make a defense, to counter-punch.”
On the WTA Tour, seven players inside the current Top 20 are 23 or younger, including the 12th-ranked Bencic. Ten are 25 and under.
"I think it's a good level. We are trying to improve. I think the age is going down [with] so many more younger players coming up," she said.
Bencic has made the fast turnaround to play Doha this week, drawing world No. 19 Madison Keys. The American is making her 2021 season debut.