The players met up for the second time with their last match going deep in Hobart last year which saw Schmiedlova edge Bencic for a spot in the final. Despite the defeat, the Swiss star surged in 2019, winning championships in Dubai and Moscow as well as going far at the US Open. With good prep in Shenzhen and Adelaide, the world number seven would do her best to even the series with the Slovakian.
The battle was heavy right from the first point as it took a comeback from 15-40 for Bencic to force deuce. Once she had a window of opportunity, the Swiss broke Schmiedlova and consolidated it with a hold in the second. Despite playing to deuce in the previous game, the sixth seed scored the double break edging the Slovakian for a 3-0 stand. With Schmiedlova on the ropes, Bencic managed to coast through her service in the fourth.
What she didn’t expect was her opponent pulling off a serve to love in the fifth to end the shutout. The Slovakian suddenly surged out to two more victories that included breaking Bencic, but the road to a full comeback was far off. The sixth seed won the next two, breaking Schmiedlova with two set points that were gifted on two double faults to end 40 minutes of play. The 25-year-old committed 17 unforced errors and a total of six double faults giving Bencic the early lead.
The second set was a full turnaround for Schmiedlova as she found her moment to dig in and ravage the Swiss number one. Taking dictation away from Bencic, the 25-year-old rallied to a 3-0 lead with a break in hand. Bencic turned the tide in the fourth playing more action on deuce where after four breaks, the 22-year-old got on the board. Her determination assisted in getting the set to three-all, hoping to regain control over Schmiedlova.
The two stayed tight with service holds despite each player having problems in certain areas of their game. The offence rose enough for Bencic to hold for the pivotal 5-4 lead and fight for the match. Schmiedlova refused to let things end on a break forcing Bencic to gain chances in extra play. The Swiss star put a lot of effort to get her service hold locked but had unforced errors to battle back. The 11th went to deuce, but after three breaks, Bencic managed to hold the AD point.
Determined to finish off Schmiedlova, the sixth seed reached three match points on the break but watched the Slovakian save two with a winner and a forced error. With only one left, Bencic made the net-front presence key before getting the win on a ball that Schmiedlova couldn’t get across the net. The match went on for 1 hour, and 44 minutes where both scored 25 winners, but the difference on errors went to the Slovakian with 34.
“Every first round is very difficult, especially against Anna,” Bencic said during her on-court interview. “She played great, and it was really tough to find the rhythm in the first round, but I think it’s all about fighting and really happy that I got through today.”
Published 21 Jan 2020, 09:13 IST