TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Belinda Bencic's rich vein of form at the end of the year continues, as she defeated Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands, 7-6(3), 6-1, in the championship match of the Taipei OEC Open on Sunday.
Bencic has now won 10 consecutive matches and two WTA 125K Series titles in back-to-back weeks, after her triumph at the EA Hua Hin Championship last weekend. The Swiss former World No.7 is projected to re-enter the Top 100 on Monday due to her victory, after missing nearly five months on tour this spring and summer due to injury.
The competitive first set featured strong, clean hitting by both players, and they each won over 73 percent on their first serves in the opening frame. But Bencic was able to take more opportunities when presented to her in the second set -- she was 3-for-5 on break points there, as opposed to 1-for-6 in the opening frame.
Bencic led off the match with a double fault, but then went on a pristine streak which saw her win 14 consecutive points on her serve. The Swiss player claimed the first advantage of the encounter when she broke Rus at love for a 4-2 lead, after the Dutchwoman started to misfire on her groundstrokes.
After another quick Bencic hold for 5-2, the set appeared to be swiftly headed for its conclusion. In the next game, Rus could not convert her first two game points, and a forehand winner by Bencic led to set point. But Rus staved that off, and two additional set points as well, with some timely strong serving. After a 20-point game, Rus held with another great serve that Bencic returned long.
Bencic, frustrated by failing to convert the three set points, faltered for the only time in the match. She was easily broken in the next game, serving a double fault down break point to allow Rus to get back on serve at 5-4. Rus picked up steam on her tricky left-handed serve, and fired an ace on game point at 6-5 to send the set to a tiebreak.
But it was Rus who blinked first in the tiebreak, as unforced errors on her first two service points gifted Bencic a 3-0 lead to start. An unreturnable serve by the 20-year-old Swiss put her up 5-0, and she reached her fourth set point when Rus put a forehand into the net for 6-3. Rus sent a final backhand error wide and Bencic took the hard-fought first set.
Bencic then cruised through the second set, surrendering only one game and facing no break points. Rus continued to fight and hit some sterling winners, but her serve lacked the punch it had possessed earlier in the match, and Bencic was able to force the issue with some challenging, well-placed returns.
An ace on game point gave Bencic a 5-1 lead, forcing Rus to serve to stay in the match. The 26-year-old Dutchwoman reached game point on her serve, but Bencic erased it, sending the game to deuce. A costly double fault brought up match point, and a final forehand error into the net by Rus propelled Bencic to her tenth straight match win and second straight title.
Earlier, in the doubles final, the unseeded tandem of Veronika Kudermetova of Russia and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus outlasted the No.3 seeds, Australian Monique Adamczak and Great Britain’s Naomi Broady, 2-6, 7-6(5), 10-6.
Sabalenka has now won her first doubles title at this level, while Kudermetova defended the championship she won here last year with her compatriot Natela Dzalamidze.
Kudermetova and Sabalenka were broken three times and could only break Adamczak and Broady once, and had only one ace to their opponents’ six. Nevertheless, the Russian/Belarusian pairing emerged victorious by peaking in the pivotal match-ending tiebreaks.
After failing to close out the second set serving at 6-5, Kudermetova and Sabalenka raced to a 4-0 lead in the tiebreak. Adamczak and Broady pulled back to 4-3, but Kudermetova and Sabalenka held on and sent the match to a decisive super-tiebreak. There, Kudermetova and Sabalenka won five of the final six points to capture the title.