No.10 seed Belinda Bencic moved into the first clay-court final of her career with a 6-4, 6-3 semifinal victory over Ekaterina Alexandrova at the Credit One Charleston Open on Saturday.
"I'm happy this moment came," said Bencic, reflecting on her maiden clay-court final. "I didn't think it would. But super happy with how I played today. I thought it was a great match, [in] tough conditions."
Bencic will meet No.4 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia in the final. Jabeur charged back from a break down in the final set to outlast No.15 seed Amanda Anisimova of the United States 2-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Full circle: Bencic had lost in her two previous clay-court semifinals, including at Charleston in 2014, when she reached the semifinals as a 17-year-old qualifier.
Eight years later, Bencic is at last into the Charleston championship match after her 1-hour and 18-minute win over Alexandrova in chilly temperatures. With the win, Bencic claims a 3-2 lead in her closely-contested head-to-head with Alexandrova.
By the numbers: Bencic, who won the Olympic gold medal in singles last year, is now into her 14th Hologic WTA Tour singles final overall. The Swiss star, who holds a career-high ranking of World No.4, is seeking her sixth career singles title.
Bencic, currently ranked No.21, is projected to re-enter the Top 15 after this week. She is projected to go as high as No.13 if she can capture the title.
Bencic pulled through multiple tight matches before making it to the final. She was two points away from defeat in her first-round match with Wang Xiyu, and she executed a comeback win in the quarterfinals over Paula Badosa, a player she had never beaten in three previous meetings.
Match moments: 54th-ranked Alexandrova pulled back from 4-1 down to level the first set at 4-4, but Bencic forced errors from her opponent to earn another service break at 5-4 and grab the one-set lead.
At 3-2 in the second set, Bencic demonstrated exceptional reflexes with a passing winner to set up break point. Bencic converted that chance with a winning volley, which was decisive as the only break of the second set.
Bencic converted her first match point at 5-3 with her fifth ace of the day. Olympic champion Bencic won exactly three-quarters of her first-service points, while also triumphing on 68 percent of Alexandrova’s second-service points.
Jabeur battles past Anisimova
The second semifinal between Jabeur and Anisimova was a topsy-turvy affair, with World No.10 Jabeur staging multiple comebacks before grabbing the 1-hour and 46-minute win over 47th-ranked Anisimova.
Jabeur continues to excel on the green clay of Charleston, with a 12-2 win-loss record at this site over this season and last. In 2021, she made the Credit One Charleston Open semifinals, then reached the final of the WTA 250 event the very next week at the same venue.
"For some reason, I love playing on this clay," Jabeur said afterward. "It's always fun to play here. The people have great energy. Again, I lost in the semifinal and the finals last year, but I always want to get a title here."
Into her first final of the year, Jabeur is seeking her first clay-court title and second Hologic WTA Tour singles title overall. Last year, she became the first Arab woman to win a singles title when she triumphed on the grass in Birmingham.
In the first meeting between Jabeur and Anisimova, each player swept through a set, with Anisimova dominating the opener, and Jabeur striking back quickly in the second.
Anisimova's powerful hitting gave her a break in the first game of the decisive third set. But Jabeur's deft dropshots and fiery forehands pulled her back into the decider, with 12 break points between the players combined. Jabeur completed a run of three straight breaks by leveling the set at 4-4 with a forehand winner.
After using another dropshot to hold for 5-4, Jabeur took charge in the last game, breaking at love to complete her comeback and reach her fifth career singles final.
Bencic won her lone previous meeting with Jabeur via retirement, in the Round of 16 at Madrid last season.