Belinda Bencic pulled off a serious comeback to march on at the BNL Internazionali D’Italia Tuesday. The Swiss star came from a set down and three games in the second set to press the issue with Anastasija Sevastova who lost control in a 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 score on Pietrangeli court at Foro Italico in Rome.
This was the first meeting for the two powerhouse Europeans and a key point for both of them to go deep in their opening match. Bencic relentlessly pushed herself to do well in every tournament and succeeded with a semifinal finish in Madrid. The Latvian had a decent run as well but went down to eventual champion Kiki Bertens who had a stronger stance on clay than anyone this season. With the two looking for a strong opening, one would surely be disappointed at their untimely demise.
Bencic got the best start she could have asked for blanking Sevastova in the first but woke her opponent’s fire in the second. The Latvian had a comfortable service game before breaking Bencic with two points in the third. She consolidated the break with a hold for 3-1 and added two more wins to be the one way runner against the Swiss. After a chat with her father and coach Ivan Bencic, she caught a break to hold for the first time since the opening game.
Despite saving three set points, the 22-year-old was in no position to do it on the return side of the game. She faced two more and lost her composure when fans didn’t sit down and Sevastova was given another first serve. In the end, the world number 13 got it done and dusted to come out ahead after 28 minutes. Feeling quite comfortable with her offense that produced 9 of 12 from the first serve and seven of eight from the second.
Marco Mirnegg came out to speak to the Latvian about the good she had done and what she needed to do to remain firm against Bencic. Playing on the return side, Sevastova aggressively returned to Bencic getting her away from a strategic shot that handed her triple break point. Bencic avoided the shutout with a nicely composed return but double faulted an opportunity to force deuce.
It was soon a three game streak for Sevastova who looked to have the day done and dusted until a loss of focus changed the pace of the second set. A break back for Bencic got her on the board after she got frustrated about similar problems with the fans denied her first serve. She used that anger correctly to overcome the deficit and put the Latvian in a troubling spot.
Bencic scored a massive serve to love that made it 4-3 and the momentum flowing towards her end. Another break chance came in the eighth but a bad return forced deuce for Sevastova. She blew her chance to reel in the service game with unforced errors that gave the Swiss star her fifth straight victory. She served for the set with an impressive set of shots that beat the 12th seed outright concluding the set in 35 minutes. A drop of her service game and the 11 unforced errors were enough to hand Bencic the opportunity needed to conduct herself a competitive posture.
Needing a serious readjustment, Sevastova came into the third holding the 22-year-old to a single point. Bencic answered with an energetic service game that levelled the score after two. She secured a break in the third that started another surge of dictation over the Latvian. By the time six games had elapsed, the 29-year-old was down 5-1 having nothing to put up against Bencic who was playing comfortably.
The Latvian was a game from being out of it but a service hold in the seventh notched a second win that she hoped would turn into more. With Bencic on serve for the match, that hope faded away with Sevastova delivering a forehand error wide to give the Swiss star a spot in the third round after 1 hour and 32 minutes. Bencic finished her day with the first serve points well in hand while her opponent struggled to contain the terrific start she had in the opening set.
While she looks back at the loss and preps for Paris, the 22 year old sets up for a challenge between French stars Kristina Mladenovic or Caroline Garcia.Published 14 May 2019, 19:54 IST