It took 3 hours and 7 minutes, but Belinda Bencic is back in the bett1open final for the second straight year.
No.8 seed Bencic prevailed in one of the ten longest matches of the season to outlast No.2 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-4 in a grueling semifinal showdown in Berlin.
"I thought that was an incredible match," Bencic said. "We both kind of pushed really hard, we both didn’t give each other anything. I think it was high quality, of course we held our serves as much as we could, and I really felt like we put on a show there."
By the numbers: Bencic is now 4-2 lifetime against Top 10 players on grass, as she moves into the fifth grass-court final of her career. Bencic seeks her second grass-court title, with her first coming at Eastbourne in 2015.
Bencic, who lost to Liudmila Samsonova in last year's Berlin final, was dominant behind her backhand, off of which she had 19 of her 41 winners.
Last year's Olympic gold medalist Bencic is now 1-1 against Sakkari at tour level. Sakkari had previously topped the Swiss player in the 2020 St. Petersburg quarterfinals on indoor hard court.
Key plays: Bencic held a set point at 6-5 in the first-set tiebreak, but Sakkari erased that chance. The Greek then fired a backhand winner to garner her first set point at 7-6. A return winner off the netcord gave Sakkari the first set after 72 topsy-turvy minutes.
In the second set, though, Bencic grabbed the lead with aplomb, holding at love for 5-4 with three straight backhand winners followed by an ace. Bencic then converted her fifth break point of the next game with a return winner, leveling the match.
For the second set in a row, there were no breaks through 5-4 as the third set stayed closely contested. But once again, Bencic took her chance in the tenth game, converting her third match point by following up a strong backhand with a putaway winner.
Jabeur stops Gauff in straight sets
No.1 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia will be Bencic’s opponent in the final, after Jabeur defeated No.7 seed Coco Gauff of the United States 7-6(4), 6-2 in the second semifinal.
Jabeur had lost three of her four previous meetings against recent Roland Garros finalist Gauff. But in their first grass-court encounter, Jabeur held the upper hand and triumphed after 1 hour and 17 minutes.
Like Bencic, Jabeur is seeking her second grass-court singles title. Last year, Jabeur became the first Arab woman to claim a Hologic WTA Tour singles title when she took the trophy on the Birmingham lawns.
After an early exchange of breaks up to 3-2, Jabeur and Gauff advanced to the first-set tiebreak without any further break points. In the breaker, Jabeur leapt to a 6-2 lead, and though Gauff erased two set points, Jabeur finished off the opener with an ace on her third chance.
In the second set, Jabeur dropped only one point on serve up to 5-1. Even a last-minute break by Gauff to extend the match did not throw the Tunisian, as she broke to close out the victory. Jabeur finished the clash with 18 winners to just six unforced errors.
Head-to-head: Bencic has beaten Jabeur in two of their three meetings, which have all come on clay. This year, Bencic defeated Jabeur in the Charleston final, but Jabeur got revenge in their last match en route to the Madrid title.