TORONTO, Canada - No.11 seed Belinda Bencic made a belated and triumphant return to the scene of one of her greatest triumphs at the Rogers Cup, defeating teenage qualifier Anastasia Potapova 6-2, 6-1 in one hour and four minutes.
The Swiss player won her second title in stunning fashion in Toronto in 2015, beating four of the Top 6 players in the world along the way - including Serena Williams and Simona Halep in the last two rounds. But she has not played in Canada since, unable to defend her title in Montréal in 2016 due to a wrist injury that continued to afflict her in 2017 and - ranked too low to enter the main draw - opting to schedule Washington and Cincinnati instead in 2018. But the 22-year-old picked up where she left off today, never facing a break point and turning in a confident and efficient performance to assert her authority over her 18-year-old opponent.
Potapova did not help herself with a slew of double faults, tallying 10 of them over the course of the match - but even aside from those service woes, found herself constantly on the back foot as Bencic yanked her thither and yon with effortless changes of direction and cleanly struck returns.
A return winner garnered the Dubai champion the immediate break, and although Potapova battled hard to stave off two break points in the fifth game, Bencic was not to be denied the double break: spectacular hands on a running chipped backhand winner paved the way to a 5-2 lead, and swiftly afterwards the opening act.
The 2014 US Open quarterfinalist was even more ruthless in the second set, racing through 16 of the first 19 points. Smooth drive volley finishes enhanced her dominance in terms of point construction, and Bencic continued her astounding accuracy off the ground, ending the match with 16 winners to a meagre five unforced errors.
The home stretch was the toughest for Bencic: the final two games were the only ones in the match that went to multiple deuces as the Russian battled gamely to stay alive. But although her game had cooled down a touch, Bencic was still sharp enough to gut out both of those mini-tussles, taking her fourth match point as a final Potapova forehand found the net. Next up for the former winner in her bid to extend her Canadian winning streak to eight will be either Julia Goerges or qualifier Polona Hercog.