MALLORCA, Spain - No.3 seed Belinda Bencic came back from a set down to knock out reigning Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber at the Mallorca Open, 2-6, 7-6(2), 6-4.
The Dubai champion fired 40 winners and seven aces against the former World No.1 en route to her second WTA final of the year.
“It means a lot to me to be in the final, I thought I fought very hard today,” Bencic told wtatennis.com afterward. “I definitely tried to give my best today and fought until the end, so I’m so happy to be in the final.”
Her reward will be a clash with up-and-coming American Sofia Kenin, who took down Anastasija Sevastova in three sets earlier in the day. It will be the pair’s first meeting.
“I’m going to enjoy it, and just play very freely because I’m in the final,” Bencic said. “She’s a tough opponent, we practiced here together. I think it will be a great match.”
But a spot in the final looked far away as the top seeded Kerber wasted no time in taking control of proceedings at Pista Central, breaking early to establish a 2-0 lead. Bencic created a pair of break chances of her own a few games later, seeking the quick break back, but Kerber held firm to make it 3-1.
The German extended her lead with another break for 4-1, and dodged more break back points to stay in control of the set. She served it out with ease, taking the opening set 6-2 in 33 minutes.
Bencic raised her level in the second set, and brought out her variety to give the Wimbledon champion some more pushback. She dodged a trio of break points on her way to her first break of the match, for a 5-3 lead. But Kerber rallied to get another break straight back, and the pair marched into a tiebreaker.
Bencic missed a smash into open court to give Kerber a 2-1 lead in the tiebreak, but she responded admirably to get back on track. Her relentless defending produced a spate of wild mishits from the Kerber racquet, and Bencic reeled off the next six points in a row to send them into a deciding set.
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This time, Bencic got on board early, saving three break points at 1-1 and responding emphatically to break Kerber at 2-1. The lone break would prove to be decisive, as it was all that separated them for the next seven games. Kerber created two more break chances late in the set, but Bencic batted them away to take the match in just over two hours.
“She’s playing great tennis on grass, staying low on her shots,” Bencic explained. “So I tried to focus on my serve and hit good returns - deep balls so she could not attack and I could be the aggressive one.”