WTA Insider David Kane | Former World No.7 Belinda Bencic discussed how she discovered Serena was her first round opponent in Melbourne, and her memories of their last encounter in Toronto.
WTA Staff

News that you're playing 22-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the first round travels fast, and former World No.7 Belinda Bencic didn't have to look far to find out her first round opponent at this year's Australian Open.

"My Twitter was blowing up," the Swiss youngster said in her pre-tournament press conference. "I was like, 'What's going on?' That's when I saw it.

"My first reaction was actually, like, really happy. So I think I'm super pumped, like excited I get to play on the big court."

A fiery on-court competitor, Bencic wasn't too keen to accept coldolences, or wallow in having to play such a decorated foe so early at a major.

"Everyone is like, 'Oh, bad luck with the draw.' Me, I'm pretty happy and excited about it."

And she has good reason to feel confident; after all, Bencic did emerge victorious in her last meeting with the former World No.1 at the 2015 Rogers Cup.

"I still remember the last game, like every point, everything," she said of the 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 upset. "It was, for sure, my biggest win until now."

"I hope I can take this memory and put it to positive energy to be, like, super confident on the court, and play good."

It was a big win in what was a breakthrough week for Bencic, who won the biggest title of her career with wins over the likes of Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, Sabine Lisicki, and Eugenie Bouchard before outlasting an injured Simona Halep in the final.

The run propelled the then-18-year-old on a steep upward trajectory that peaked last February, when she became the youngest Top 10 debutante since Wozniacki in 2009. From those dizzying heights, persistent physical problems began pushing her down.

"I got one injury, then it was a circle into the next one. It just didn't stop, and I wasn't really happy about it. I'd come back, and not play very good.

"Now I think I'm really motivated to play, first of all. I'm so happy to be here."

Even as she kicked off 2017 with Swiss legend Roger Federer at Hopman Cup, a broken toenail - evidenced by a particularly gruesome photo posted to Bencic's otherwise well-pedicured Twitter account - threatened to further derail her progress.

"It's good now. It fell off, if you want to see a video or something..." she joked.

"The physio took good care of me, they taped it for the match, for the practices. When I stop, it's not that bad. I made a hole into my shoe, so I don't put pressure on it. But it's a common tennis injury.

"Physically I have nothing that bothers me, except this thing in Sydney. Now, I think I'm pretty close to 100%."

She'll need 100% - perhaps more - to overcome Serena, who remains in hot pursuit of a 23rd Grand Slam title, one that would break her current tie with Stefanie Graf and assure her of the Open Era record.

"Every first-round opponent is a dangerous floater, so you have to be careful with everyone.

"But, I mean, we played each other two times already. We both know what to expect now. I think it will be, for sure, a good match."

Bencic and Serena will play on Tuesday, when the bottom half of the draw begins first round play.