BNP Paribas Open: Bencic marches into semifinal with victory over Pliskova in three sets
Belinda Bencic once again proved that she’s in it to win it at the BNP Paribas Open Thursday. The 22-year-old put together another stunning victory that took down Karolina Pliskova in three sets in a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 match on Stadium One at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. It was the 12th match win in a row and the fifth top ten win that sent her to the semifinals for the first time.
Not many players remained in the way of the Swiss miss who seems to have no fear of anyone she matches up with. A gargantuan win over world number one and defending champion Naomi Osaka not only increased her winning streak to nine, but notched a fifth win over top ten players this season.
What could be a serious move is being able to knock out Pliskova who is the world number five and has a 15-2 record on hard courts so far. The Czech superstar has only gone to three sets twice but would be prepared for anything that the 22-year-old brings to the court.
Pliskova made sure to hold serve as a strong start was needed against the 23rd seed. Bencic matched the Czech with a hold despite having to save it on deuce. With the push from Pliskova, the Swiss star got a grip on her opponent’s serve before locking down the first break of the set.
It was soon a three-game winning streak for Bencic as she held the fourth looking to dominate the fifth seed. Feeling the pressure, the 26-year-old double-faulted twice during her service game in the fifth that drew Bencic to deuce. The double break loomed over Pliskova but an error from Bencic saved her from going down four straight.
She took a chat with coach Conchita Martinez who told her that the serve was slow and that she needed to come into the baseline. She made the adjustments asked and forced Bencic to deuce but couldn’t secure the break that returned the two-game lead.
It stayed that way through eight as Bencic had the pivotal 5-3 stance with her opponent under fire to stay alive in the set. She hesitated during the ninth which produced three set points for the 22-year-old. Pliskova saved one with a crosscourt drive before a forehand error made it two saved. She couldn’t save a third as Bencic got control of the rally to fire a shot down the sideline away from the fifth seed to secure the set after 36 minutes. The 22-year-old finished the set with a strong offense that saw her win 78 percent of points on the first serve with 14 wins and only six unforced errors.
Knowing that she needed a set to go her way, Pliskova came out guns blazing to break apart Bencic after two breaks on deuce. She turned the early success into a three-game winning streak that had Bencic frustrated and desperate for a chat with her father and coach. Ivan Bencic told her to move into the baseline and go for the chance to redirect during the rally to get back into it. She didn’t after the fourth which gave the fifth seed a comfortable run towards the set.
The 22-year-old somehow found a way to stop the bleeding and secure her service in the fifth with a quick hold of deuce. With the concern of a shutout no longer around, the 23rd seed tried to dig in and succeeded in securing a break to cut Pliskova’s lead in half. A comeback was in place for the Swiss star who gained another hold in the set to get within reach of a tie. During the changeover, the Czech took a conference with Martinez who told her that adjustments had to be made and to go for the ball when the opportunities arrived.
A solid defense in the eighth gave Pliskova a two-game breathing room for herself to pressure the third set into play. While it didn’t come on Bencic’s serve in the ninth, she had a shot at locking it down in the tenth. Bencic threatened with a break chance after Pliskova hit back a long ball but saved the game to deuce where things got tight between the two. They went five breaks where Bencic saved four set points but couldn’t hold Pliskova from a fifth that set up a decider after 55 minutes.
The 22-year-old had a 7-1 record in three-setters this season making her mentally ready to go the distance while maintaining the point that she had nothing to lose. She came out with a hold in the first game but was bettered by Pliskova who held to love in the second showing her strength. She tried to change possession of carrying the tempo in the third but the 23rd seed held the third. The two got into another deuce draw that spanned eight breaks and 13 minutes until Pliskova came out with the win that levelled the score at two all.
Despite being unable to convert on so many break point chances, Bencic showed her level of endurance to blank Pliskova in the fifth landing her seventh ace of the match during the win. Pliskova answered back with a big serve that shutout Bencic to level at three-all. After the Swiss star took the lead, Pliskova took another conference with Martinez who again told her to move into the court and adjust her swing to counter. A shot smash from Pliskova went into the net that summed up her downfall in the eighth to give Bencic a 5-3 lead with the match at hand.
Maintaining an important service, the 23rd seed kept the pressure on and figured out how to beat down Pliskova and once again take the victory after 2 hours and 16 minutes. She finished the day with 67 percent first serve and maintained winning 78 percent of points from it. It did a number on Pliskova’s return game where she managed only 13 of 59 against the Swiss star leaving no doubt that she was going all the way.
She will humbly await the winner between Venus Williams and Angelique Kerber to come at her in a major semifinal match on Friday.