INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - Belinda Bencic had to save match point in a dramatic battle against Timea Babos but she’s through to the second round at the BNP Paribas Open.
Having to come back from a set down and needing a marathon two hours and 23 minutes, Bencic sealed the victory 1-6, 6-1, 7-6(4).
“We were both very tired and it was so intense for us both,” Bencic said in her on-court interview. “We were both just fighting and leaving our hearts out there.”
Victory for Bencic looked very far away even before Babos arrived at match point late in the third set. Despite earning the first break point chances at 2-1, Bencic wasn’t able to convert and she went on to lose the next four games in a row as she struggled with her serve - and her mounting frustration.
But it was a different story in the second set as Bencic roared to life, stepping inside the court to return the booming Babos serve with interest. She rocketed ahead to a 4-0 lead before facing some resistance from the Hungarian. Babos broke straight back to cut down on Bencic’s lead, but wasn’t able to hold serve at all in the second set as the Swiss zoomed to comfortably take it to three sets.
With both players dialed in, the tense third set featured highlight-reel worthy shots and marathon, back-and-forth games. One such game came at 3-3, after both players exchanged breaks to stay on serve. Bencic had Babos on the ropes creating break chance after break chance, but the Hungarian held firm.
Babos arrived at match point at 5-4 on her opponent’s serve, but this time it was Bencic who denied Babos to keep them level, and the pair marched to a tiebreak. Bencic won the first four of five points to build up a healthy 4-1 lead, and held her nose out front to edge past Babos take her first win at the 2018 BNP Paribas Open.
“I didn’t realize it was match point actually!” Bencic said of her dramatic turnaround. “It was a very important moment, of course, and I’m very happy that everyone was into it and cheering for us both.”
She added, “I enjoy this tournament so much, it’s so amazing here. Unfortunately I haven’t had many great results here, so hopefully I can change that and do a little better.”
It’s Bencic’s first win since the Australian Open, where she dealt a first-round upset to No.5 seed Venus Williams. The victory earns her a second-round clash with No.6 seed and reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.