No.9 seed Belinda Bencic gave Switzerland its third Olympic tennis gold medal with a nail-biting 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 win against unseeded Marketa Vondrousova in 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Previously, Marc Rosset took gold in men's singles at Barcelona 1992 and Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka teamed up to win men's doubles at Beijing 2008. In addition, Federer was the men's singles silver medallist at London 2012, while Timea Bacsinszky and Martina Hingis captured silver in women's doubles at Rio 2016.
Swiss dreams are made of gold 🥇@BelindaBencic defeats Marketa Vondrousova 7-5 2-6 6-3 to earn #SUI a third gold medal in tennis after Marc Rosset at Barcelona 1992 and Federer/Wawrinka at Beijing 2008!#Tokyo2020 | #Tennis | #Olympics pic.twitter.com/QzwSKdI4Ms— ITF (@ITFTennis) July 31, 2021
The result marks Bencic's first title since Moscow 2019 after losing both of her previous finals this season, in Adelaide and Berlin. The 24-year-old trailed by an early break in the deciding set against Vondrousova, but was able to execute her ultra-aggressive strategy in key moments to seal victory.
Bencic's keenness to take control was on show immediately. Taking the ball early and ricocheting it from line to line, she was quick to move further and further into the court before swatting away a series of drive volley winners.
This garnered her an opening break - but was a double-edged sword, leading to a flurry of errors as Vondrousova immediately broke back. Another exchange of breaks followed as both players oscillated between nervy patches and stellar hitting, but it was Bencic who was sharpest at the end of the set. The final two games of the set saw her come up with four beautifully struck backhand winners as she took the lead.
A switch to a more aggressive strategy paid off for Vondrousova in the second set. The Czech, already guaranteed to win the Czech Republic's best singles medal, swung momentum in her favour after eking out a four-deuce break of serve in the first game.
From there, Vondrousova motored, cutting off Bencic's opportunities to open the court with her own use of angles and heavy spin. The World No.42 broke again with an exquisite drop-volley, and overcame a pair of double faults to successfully serve out the second act.
The third set was on a knife-edge almost all the way as both players pitted their best tennis against each other. Whenever one seemed to be in the driver's seat, the other would hit back. Vondrousova gained the first break, before Bencic responded by taking three straight games and a 3-1 lead. A pair of booming backhand returns set Vondrousova on the way to reducing the deficit to 3-2.
Vondrousova had a point to break again at 3-3, but the 22-year-old's forehand let her down and Bencic escaped to hold for 4-3. After receiving treatment on her foot at the change of ends, Bencic resumed play in supreme form, breaking to love after eliciting a series of errors from Vondrousova.
Serving for the gold medal was more of an adventure. Bencic needed to save three break points, but twice found backhand winners to do so. Vondrousova also rose to the occasion with her back to the wall, firing a marvellous forehand winner to stave off a first match point. But on the second, Bencic found a service winner that sealed gold, and fell to her back in joy.
Vondrousova can nonetheless console herself with the Czech Republic's third Olympic tennis silver medal, with both previously coming in women's doubles: Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova at Atlanta 1996, and Lucie Hradecka and Andrea Sestini Hlavackova at London 2012. (Novotna and Sukova won silver for the former Czechoslovakia at Seoul 1988, where Slovak Miloslav Mecir also took gold.) The country's prior best women's singles medals were a pair of bronzes, won by Novotna at Atlanta 1996 and Petra Kvitova at Rio 2016.
For both Bencic and Vondrousova, Tokyo 2020 has been vindication of their early, prodigious talent. Both were stellar junior talents who rose swiftly into the Top 100: Bencic made the 2014 US Open quarterfinals at the age of 17, and a year later had also lifted prestigious trophies in Eastbourne and Toronto. Vondrousova won the 2017 Biel title in just her second WTA main draw at the age of 17, and two years later became the first teenager Roland Garros finalist in over a decade.
After those successes, both players were derailed by wrist injuries, and have had to fight to regain their positions at the top of the game. The Olympic Games has been a statement that for all the ups and downs in their careers, Bencic and Vondrousova possess talent that hasn't been extinguished.