ROME, Italy -- Belinda Bencic of Switzerland pulled off a superb comeback victory in the opening round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Tuesday, fighting back from a set and two breaks down to overcome No.12 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
"It means a lot, because it shows I’m really fighting on the court and I can turn things around when it’s not working at all for me," Bencic told the press, after her win.
In the first meeting between the two players, Bencic was in a dire position down 6-2, 3-0 to Sevastova, but the Swiss star, who re-entered the Top 15 after a semifinal run at Madrid last week, was able to execute a marvelous comeback to oust the Latvian after 92 minutes of creative play.
"When I was down, I really wanted to make it a little bit more of a fight," Bencic continued. "So I relaxed a little bit, and then I just kept the momentum, and it worked well for me."
15th-ranked Bencic finished the match with 25 winners to 20 unforced errors, and the 22-year-old was stellar in the final set, where she claimed 92 percent of her first-service points and at one juncture reeled off a 17-point streak. World No.13 Sevastova was excellent in the first set to build up her lead, but faded down the stretch, completing the clash with 24 winners to 26 unforced errors.
Bencic’s second-round opponent will be Kristina Mladenovic, who defeated Caroline Garcia in an all-French affair, 6-1, 6-2, later on Tuesday. Mladenovic leads their head-to-head 2-1, but this will be their first meeting on clay and their first clash since 2017.
"We didn’t play for a very long time against each other, but I feel like we know each other’s games well," Bencic said of Mladenovic. "I really feel like I’m playing very good tennis in the moment, I’m very confident, so I always want to focus on myself. Obviously we will think a little bit about tactics, but I'll mostly try to be me on the court, and I think it will be a good match."
Bencic held at love to start the match, but Sevastova swiftly wrested complete control of the opener from that juncture forward, as her supreme movement and delicate dropshots flustered the Swiss player. Sevastova earned the first break to lead 2-1 behind glorious groundstroke winners, then deployed the dropshot twice en route to a second break for 4-1.
The Swiss player used solid serving and aggressive forehands to fend off three set points on her serve at 5-1. But Sevastova was unfazed and served out the set in the very next game, converting her fourth set point with an ace.
Sevastova had stunning statistics in the opening set, with nine winners to just three unforced errors, and the Latvian never faced a break point. The Latvian continued her momentum in the second set, as Bencic dropped serve in the opening game with a double fault on break point. Sevastova then took a double-break, 3-0 lead with a forehand crosscourt winner.
Suddenly, however, a frustrated Bencic found supreme range on her service returns, and the set started to turn in her favor. The Swiss player earned her first service break of the match with a dropshot winner, and then crushed a number of returns to break Sevastova for a second time, pulling back level at 3-3.
Bencic found herself on a roll from this point forward, holding at love for 4-3 with a backhand crosscourt winner, then using the forehand side to earn a tough break and lead 5-3. Bencic served out the set in the next game, completing a stunning six-game run to come back from two breaks down and take the second set.
Indeed, Bencic turned around the entire match from 6-2, 3-0 down. The Swiss player slammed a backhand return winner down the line to reach triple break point at 1-1 in the final set, and converted her first chance in that game to claim the first break of the decider. Bencic broke Sevastova again for good measure, at love, to extend her lead to 4-1.
Bencic held at love for 5-1, which gave her a run of 17 straight points. Sevastova stopped that streak and ended up with a hold for 5-2, but Bencic finished off her comeback on her second match point in the next game, earning her first win at Rome since 2014.