Hobart International: Bencic wins drama filled three-setter against Buzarnescu
Belinda Bencic worked so hard to come out a winner at the Hobart International on Tuesday. In what was an up and down fight against Mihaela Buzarnescu, the Swiss star dealt with the numerous errors, frustrations and changes in the conditions to earn the 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 win on center court at the Domain Tennis Centre. It became Bencic’s first win on the island of Tasmania in what was a stressful time on the court.
The two last met in 2017 during an ITF match that saw Bencic get even with Buzarnescu after playing deep in the opening set before coasting to a straight sets win. Both were on different paths last season with the Romanian winning her first title at the inaugural event in San Jose. Bencic nearly had one herself but made a serious push at Luxembourg to feel confident in her first WTA tournament. Despite not winning at the Hopman Cup last week, the 21-year-old had time on the court to try and counter Buzarnescu at every chance.
Last year's Hobart International finalist got the start she wanted to begin the match breaking down Bencic before consolidating with a hold of serve. Errors from Bencic were rising from her end giving the Romanian early leverage. She thought that she had the third game done and dusted with a line drive winner but Buzarnescu got to it to return the ball into the open court.
It got her to deuce but fighting for the AD point became difficult. Bencic was intent on capturing the game at all cost and went six breaks to do it. On her fifth AD point, the 21-year-old had earned the win necessary to stay close to her opponent. The score was in favor of the Romanian who added a hold to go with the break giving her a 3-1 stance. Bencic surged back to win two straight breaking Buzarnescu before adding a third that gave her control of the set after the seventh game.
The second seed was on the outside looking in but only temporarily as she climbed back in the eighth to level back. Bencic was falling apart losing focus on serve which resulted in her loss of serve for just the second time. The set was in the hands of the Romanian who had to put some effort into her service game during the tenth with the Swiss finding ways of countering the pace.
Despite her push to gain break point opportunities, Bencic failed to secure her only chance on deuce before the 30-year-old went on to capture a 1-0 lead after 57 minutes. Both were very much even on both sides of the game scoring 10 winners and nearly two dozen errors. Buzarnescu chose to speak with her coach who mentioned her inconsistencies but that she had the opportunity to reel them in being a setup.
For Bencic, letting go of her mistakes was the mission at hand showing her eagerness for improvement by holding serve to start the second set. Despite the windy conditions, the 21-year-old battled Buzarnescu to stay tight early and make a real push for a third set. After holding in the fifth, Bencic fired away at the Romanian who was unable to answer the surge of her opponent across the court. For the second time, she was held to a point that resulted in the first break of the set and a 4-2 lead for the Swiss star.
She made it 5-2 making no mistakes on Deuce to get it settled fast. Buzarnescu got back into the mix after going three games down but it wasn’t enough to stop the 21-year-old. She pulled out all the stops to gain two set points and force the second seed to a pivotal third set after 37 minutes. Both improved on lowering the errors with Bencic having the fewest in her quest. She had six winners and was the only one to win a break point. Having outscored Buzarnescu 31-23, she would try to take everything good from the second and flow it all into the third.
She broke the second seed right before consolidating with a hold in the second. Buzarnescu rallied to get on the board but she knew the momentum weighed heavily with Bencic. That soon changed as the 21-year-old was starting to have problems again. Buzarnescu forced deuce at the right moment before getting the AD point to secure the break. Bencic broke her back in the fifth but it was still a tense time as they closed in on the ultimate conclusion. By the sixth, the score was tied with two breaks each before Bencic capped another to take a 4-3 lead.
The 30-year-old wasn’t ready to succumb to defeat as she responded with a terrific double break in the eighth to make a statement. Bencic answered with a fightback from 40-15 to force deuce, gain three break point chances and serve for the match with a 5-4 hold. Buzarnescu was the one under pressure and pulled off some quick returns that had Bencic showing her signature frustrations. She let them slip away as she gained two match points on a long return from the second seed who saved both to stay alive. There was no longer a clear ending for Bencic who was angry with the way she let the game get away from her.
The set continued with a five all score where both put it all on the line. Tensions were high with every point so critical in the late stages of the decider. Bencic’s victory in the 11th gave her one more try to lock it down on her own or go into a tiebreak. She gave herself three match points in the 12th but every one of them failed to nail down the coveted win. She double-faulted on her fourth match point but got a fifth on a well-placed ace. Despite all the difficulty, the 21-year-old went to great lengths to find the moment and did on a crosscourt winner that brought an end to a 2 hour and 36-minute drama.
“It was a tough match and the wind didn’t make it any easier,” Bencic said during her on-court interview. “We both struggled a bit and then we played great and struggled again so it was a very up and down match.” She’ll hope to have a calmer contention going into the next round where she awaits the winner between Johanna Larsson and Zoe Hives.