ROME, Italy – Qualifier Danka Kovinic produced an upset in the second round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia as she claimed the second Top 10 win of her career by unseating No.6 seed Belinda Bencic, 6-3, 6-1 in just 71 minutes.
Neither player had previously made the last 16 in Rome, but the World No.86 came into the encounter off the back of a stunning victory over Julia Goerges plus an impressive run in Istanbul, where she made the quarterfinals.
Bencic, meanwhile, was playing her first competitive WTA Tour match in seven months, having experienced a difficult start to 2020.
"She's a great player and I expected a big battle today, but I came through the qualies and I really feel confident in myself," Kovinic said after the match.
"I think that I had a little bit of advantage on the court because I played a few matches here on these courts, and she's just coming to restart the season. I'm pleased with my game and I feel good on the court."
After an even opening to this match, Kovinic won nine of the last 10 games to ease through, hitting just 11 unforced errors in comparison to 25 from her opponent’s racquet as she protected her record of having never been broken in the competition this year.
The first set could have been portioned into two distinct periods. The first saw both players dominating in serve, with the first six games all going without great event to the player with the balls in hand and not offering a hint to the one-sided nature of the contest that was to come.
In the second part of the set, both players experienced issues with their delivery. Bencic had the first break point after 26 minutes but it was brilliantly fended off by a big one-two from Kovinic, who was then presented with the lead as the Swiss delivered four double faults in a single game.
The Montenegrin then experienced a hiccup of her own as successive double faults suddenly had her opponent to break back, yet her serve found its groove at the right moment to close out the set.
A break in the very first game of the second set continued this momentum. Three break points were brought up by a clever drop shot, and while Bencic was inspired by a second-serve ace to fend each of these off, her familiar failing returned as a double fault gave her 25-year-old opponent an immediate edge.
Kovinic’s athleticism and ability to profit behind a healthy first-serve percentage was rushing Bencic into errors, and when three more break points were crafted in the fifth game, she aggressively grabbed some insurance with a drive volley to take the very first one on offer.
This simply propelled her quicker to the finish line as she remained in control of the match and secured a third break when Bencic miscued on match point, securing her place in the third round of a Premier 5 event for the first time.
"I was feeling good even the at the US Open. I lost in the second round where it was a good match against [Magda] Linette... I started feeling my game and I started getting my confidence back on the court," Kovinic added.
"That just increased when we returned to Europe when I played in Istanbul. I had great matches there also."
No.11 seed Elise Mertens will be next up for her, after the Belgian defeated Linette, 6-2, 6-4, later in the day on Wednesday.
"I expect a very good match from my side and her side as well. She's a top player, she's had great wins and she's in good shape right now," Kovinic said.
"I will just be focused on myself and try to enjoy on the court, which I've just been doing for all these days."