LUXEMBOURG -- Former Top 10 player Belinda Bencic of Switzerland won a stirring, topsy-turvy semifinal at the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open on Friday, edging Ukrainian teenager Dayana Yastremska, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(5), to move into her first WTA singles final since 2016.
World No. 47 Bencic twice came back from a break down in the final set to claim victory after a grueling two hours and 21 minutes of play, and will play in her first championship match at WTA level since her runner-up finish to Roberta Vinci at St. Petersburg in February of 2016.
18-year-old Yastremska, currently ranked No.66, saw her eight-match winning streak come to a close. The teenage sensation was attempting to advance to her second WTA singles final in two weeks, following her run to her maiden WTA singles title in Hong Kong which ended just five days ago.
Bencic, still only three years Yastremska's senior at age 21, had to survive a barrage of aggressive play from the teenager, as Yastremska blasted 45 winners and 28 unforced errors in the match. It was a basically level tilt until the final two points, where Yastremska was undone by back-to-back netted forehands.
In the final, Bencic will take on top seed Julia Goerges of Germany. World No.9 Goerges survived her own epic encounter with former Top 5 player Eugenie Bouchard of Canada in the earlier semifinal on Friday.
Yastremska’s power game was impressive throughout, but it was not enough to get past the guile and grit of Bencic in the opening set. The Swiss staved off two break points in her opening service game, and quickly took advantage of her escape, breaking Yastremska in the very next game behind strong returning.
Bencic swiftly went up a double break and held a set point at 5-1 before Yastremska survived that game to hold for 5-2. But the Swiss player stayed solid, reaching another set point in the subsequent game, which she converted when Yastremska pushed a service return wide.
Slowly but surely, though, Yastremska turned the momentum around, and took control of the second set. The Ukrainian claimed her first break of the Bencic serve with a forehand winner in the forecourt on break point to lead 3-1. Yastremska extended her lead to 5-1, breaking Bencic once more with a plethora of winners off the forehand wing.
Bencic clawed one break back with an error-forcing forehand but the teenager was unfazed, serving out the set with ease on her next service game to level the match at one set apiece. Yastremska had 16 winners to only four unforced errors in the second set.
A classic deciding set ensued, with very little separating the combatants. After a couple of tight, comeback games early in the set, Yastremska took first blood, breaking for 3-2 after Bencic double faulted on break point. However, Bencic struck right back, erasing four game points for the teenager en route to level pegging at 3-3.
A striking angled forehand winner put Yastremska up a break in the next game as well, but, once again, Bencic fought her way back with excellent returning, breaking for 4-4. Yastremska had a chance to break again and serve for the match, but the Ukrainian netted a return on break point, and Bencic eventually escaped with a hold for 5-4.
Both players survived the tense final service games exceptionally well, holding through to the decisive tiebreak with ease. A strong service return gave Bencic the first minibreak at 2-1, but Yastremska broke open a number of absurdly lengthy rallies with devastating power to reel off three straight points and lead 4-2 at the changeover.
But Bencic held firm, and Yastremska’s brutal forehand began to leak errors. Three mistakes in a row from that side put Bencic up 5-4, and though the teenager hit a forehand winner for 5-5, another error by that shot gave Bencic the first match point of the clash. There, a fourth forehand error by Yastremska in the last five points handed an emotional Bencic the hard-fought win.
More to follow....