ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Top seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland stopped hometown heroine Svetlana Kuznetsova, 7-6(4), 6-4, on Wednesday, to claim a spot in the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy quarterfinals.
"I definitely had to be the aggressor, play a little bit harder shots, because obviously [Kuznetsova] tries to break your rhythm with the spins and the slices and everything," Bencic said, after her victory. "I was prepared for that."
"Obviously I still tried to make some angled shots," Bencic added, "but I think against Svetlana, to be successful, you really need to power her, let her move, and then eventually try to hit your winner."
Bencic, currently at a career-high ranking of World No.5, moves into the last eight at St. Petersburg for the first time since her run to the final as a debutante in 2016.
The Swiss star came back from a late break down in the first set against St. Petersburg native Kuznetsova, ultimately prevailing in one hour and 44 minutes and taking a 3-1 lead in their rivalry. The duo matched each other in unforced errors, but Bencic had 21 winners to Kuznetsova's 17, helping her eke out both tight sets.
"At 6-5 in the first set, I definitely think I started to play my tennis, and then I played better," said Bencic. "I definitely had a better feeling about my game."
A flurry of double faults put two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova down an early 3-1 deficit in the first set, but the Russian struck back to pull level at 3-3. The combatants maintained parity through 5-5, which is where Kuznetsova claimed a lead by breaking Bencic with a crosscourt backhand winner.
Serving for the set, though, the Russian was thwarted by Bencic. The top seed crushed an error-forcing forehand to grasp a break point, which she converted by forcing another error, this time off the backhand wing, to tie the set at 6-6 and push the frame into a decisive tiebreak.
In the tiebreak, Bencic took early control by claiming both points on the Kuznetsova serve en route to 3-0. The Swiss player extended her lead to 5-0 before Kuznetsova pulled back to 5-3. Bencic, though, sturdied herself, firing a backhand winner to get to 6-3 and hold triple set point. On her second set point, Bencic slammed an overhead to lock up the one-set lead.
In the second set, former World No.2 Kuznetsova saved two break points at 1-1, but she was less fortunate at 3-3. On break point of that game, a strong Bencic service return led to a thunderous overhead which the Russian could not contend with, giving the Swiss player the first break of the set.
Bencic would hold that lead through 5-4, but, serving for the match, errors by the top seed gave Kuznetsova two break points. Nevertheless, Bencic coolly erased those chances, and fired a winning forehand to reach match point. There, Kuznetsova netted a return, and Bencic had lined up a spot in the quarterfinals once again.
In the quarterfinals, Bencic will face the winner of Thursday’s second-round clash between No.6 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece and French qualifier Alizé Cornet.