No.10 seed Belinda Bencic claimed a comeback victory over an opponent she had never beaten before in the Credit One Charleston Open quarterfinals, as she overcame No.2 seed Paula Badosa of Spain 2-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 on Friday.
"It was a big fight," Switzerland's Bencic said afterward. "I'm just going to try to recover. But I'm happy with the way I played, with the way I fought, and I'm happy to get another match here."
Bencic and Badosa's first meeting came one year ago in Charleston, which ended up being Badosa's maiden Top 20 win. Badosa defeated Bencic twice more since then, but Bencic finally got a win over the Spaniard in her fourth attempt, after 2 hours and 47 minutes of play.
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With the victory over World No.3 Badosa, Bencic earned her 25th win over a Top 10 player at Hologic WTA Tour and Grand Slam events. It is Bencic's first Top 10 win at either a WTA or Grand Slam event since she knocked Iga Swiatek out of last year's US Open.
Reigning Olympic gold medalist Bencic has now reached the Charleston semifinals for the first time since her tournament debut in 2014. Bencic made it to the final four that season as a 17-year-old qualifier ranked outside the Top 100.
"When I lost that semifinal, I was so heartbroken," said Bencic. "I thought that's going to be my only chance, this was it and this was maybe my only semifinal.
"My team and other people, they were telling me, 'No, this is just the start. You will play more semifinals and more tournaments.' So I feel like this completely kicked off my career."
Bencic's run this week is even more remarkable considering she was nearly ousted in the first round. Bencic was two points away from defeat before outlasting Wang Xiyu in her opening match.
In Friday's quarterfinal, Badosa swept through the first set without facing a break point. Bencic got less than half of her first serves into play in the opening set, and Badosa won two-thirds of those points on return.
However, Bencic came back from an early break down in the second set to reach a tiebreak, where the Swiss turned the match around for good. A winner into the corner gave Bencic a commanding 6-2 lead, where a forehand winner clipped the sideline on the next point to level the clash.
In the third set, Bencic saw an early break slip away, but the No.10 seed used deft short balls to garner two break points in the next game, then broke for 4-3 after a Badosa double fault. Bencic held on to prevail from there and return to the Charleston semifinals.
Bencic will face Ekaterina Alexandrova in Saturday's semifinals. Alexandrova powered past Magda Linette 6-0, 6-2 in just 62 minutes in their quarterfinal matchup.
World No.64 Linette had beaten Alexandrova in their only prior meeting, in the Seoul semifinals in 2019. However, World No.54 Alexandrova swept to victory this time around, winning 86 percent of her first-service points to reach her first semifinal of the season.
It was still a stunning run for Linette this week. Linette saved a match point in her first-round win over Katie Volynets, then had to win two three-setters on Thursday over Leylah Fernandez and Kaia Kanepi just to reach the elite eight.
Bencic and Alexandrova have split their four previous meetings. Bencic needed a third-set tiebreak to win their most recent encounter, on the grass courts of Berlin last season.
"It's always tough to play against [Bencic] because she can play just unbelievable," Alexandrova said, looking ahead to the semifinals. "I remember like every time I played against her, it was always tough ... So I think tomorrow it's going to be the same."