DUBAI, UAE - Belinda Bencic is officially back to her winning ways after a thrilling week in Dubai saw her take down four WTA Top 10 players en route to lifting the trophy at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
The victory was especially sweet for Bencic’s countryman and 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, who paired together with Bencic to win the Hopman Cup title earlier in the year.
“I'm really happy for her, but I definitely didn't expect it," Federer told press after his first round win at the ATP edition of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. "I still think, like she also thought, it was sort of work in progress, her whole comeback. But this is what sports does, they write great stories."
"I thought the way she did it was tremendous, beating four Top 10 players in exhilarating matches, to be honest. I think that was wonderful for her."
Indeed, Bencic’s dramatic run to the Dubai title saw her save six match points against Aryna Sabalenka, stun former World No.1 Simona Halep and end Elina Svitolina’s two-year reign in Dubai, before defeating Petra Kvitova in a three set thriller.
In photos: Story of Dubai 2019: Bencic's magical run
It was a spectacular return to form for the 21-year-old, after years of injury woes threatened to derail Bencic’s career.
Federer, who arrived in the Emirates early for his own tournament preparations, followed Bencic’s progress closely, he told press: every time they bumped into each other on the grounds, he shared words of encouragement.
"Every day I saw her at the courts, every day I congratulated her, every day she went on to win the next one,” he said.
"I quickly saw her after the finals before she left. She was so happy. It was a pleasure to see her play a little bit, and also happy that everything is coming together with her father and her fitness coach right now.”
Bencic herself had some positive words for the Swiss ‘maestro’ during her Dubai dream week, pointing to her Hopman Cup experience with Federer as a big boost of confidence to start 2019.
“It would be wrong if it didn't help me,” Bencic admitted in a post-match press conference. “I definitely think the Hopman Cup gives me so much. It's actually my favorite event of the year.
“Just playing with all those champions, there were so many this year, it's amazing to playing against them, to playing with them. You can learn really so much. The event is just full of energy. It's great.”