TORONTO -- Serena Williams will face No.12 Belinda Bencic in the second round of the National Bank Open on Wednesday night. A day after Williams earned her first-round win, Bencic opened her tournament with a 6-5, 6-1 win over the Czech Republic's Tereza Martincova.
"I'm super excited, I couldn't be more excited," Bencic told WTA Insider. "When I saw the draw I hoped she would win her first round and I would win my first round and it would happen. It's super inspiring to see her. I read [her essay] today in Vogue. It was so nicely written and so honest. Now that it's soon to be over, you realize even more how amazing she is and what she's achieved. It's beyond words."
Three things to know about the upcoming showdown between Bencic and Williams.
They are both former champions
Williams is a three-time champion, having won in 2001 (d. Capriati), 2011 (d. Stosur), and 2012 (d. Cirstea). In her last appearance in Toronto, Williams made the final in 2019. The last time Williams lost before the semifinals in Toronto was in 2005. She has made the semifinals or better in her last six appearances.
An Olympic champion last summer, Bencic is making her third appearance in Toronto. As an 18-year-old in 2015, the Swiss won the biggest Hologic WTA Tour title of her career in Toronto. Ranked No.20, she tallied four Top 10 wins that week - including three Top 5 wins - defeating Simona Halep by retirement in the final.
9 - Belinda #Bencic has won 9 of her first 10 main draw matches at the Canadian Open: only Chris Evert and Steffi Graf have done better in this tournament in the Open Era (10/10). Feeling.@WTA @WTA_insider @NBOtoronto— OptaAce (@OptaAce) August 9, 2022
This is a rematch of a memorable moment in Toronto
Williams leads the head-to-head 2-1 over Bencic, but the 25-year-old got her sole win right here in Toronto. En route to her 2015 title run, Bencic edged Williams to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the semifinals. Williams fired 64 winners over the course of their 2 hour and 28 minute tussle, but she also racked up 59 unforced errors.
It was just the second loss of the season for Williams, who was in the midst of the best year of her career, having won the Australian Open, French Open, and Wimbledon.
"I remember one of my first memories is watching Belinda play Serena in the [semifinals] here," said Bianca Andreescu. The Canadian was in the stadium that day. "And Belinda, what she did was super incredible. It was very inspiring for me.
"Actually, I told my mom, I'm going to do that one day. And then, funny enough, I played her in the finals, out of everyone."
Both players are looking for some momentum
Williams' victory over Nuria Parrizas Diaz in the first round was her first singles win since the 2021 French Open, which was also the last time she posted back-to-back wins. With her Vogue essay shining an even bright spotlight on the ongoing US Open Series, more wins means more matches for Williams, which is what she professes she needs.
Bencic is looking to recapture the momentum she appeared to build during the grass season, where she made the final of Berlin but retired due to foot injury. She has not defeated a Top 70 player since the injury, with No.71 Martincova being her best win by ranking since.
"Body-wise I feel good," Bencic said. "Tennis-wise, it's up and down. But you have to work hard to gain momentum, to play matches, grind through matches when you're not playing well to get another match so you can improve. Hopefully, I can get into the rhythm and play my best at the US Open."
The winner will face either No.8 seed Garbiñe Muguruza or Washington D.C. finalist Kaia Kanepi in the Round of 16.