Kremlin Cup 2019: Belinda Bencic completes three-set comeback against Polona Hercog
Belinda Bencic had a tough start to her opening match at the Kremlin Cup on Wednesday but recovered just in time. After flopping in the opening set, the third seed avoided another early exit by winning the next two over Polona Hercog 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 at the Olympic Stadium in Moscow.
The two had never met before in competition which meant this was going to be a challenge for Bencic, who has been struggling of late. The Slovenian had shown no signs of weakness in a terrific win over Katerina Siniakova in straight sets on Monday, and she arrived to the court against Bencic full of confidence.
With the opportunity to serve first, the 28-year-old overcame a 0-40 deficit to force deuce. It took Hercog two attempts to lock down the game point, but the hold eventually proved useful in boosting her confidence even further.
She broke Bencic immediately and consolidated on her serve to jump to a 3-0 lead. The 22-year-old's game seemed off, and that cost her yet another serve.
Bencic looked frustrated and called her father and coach for a talk. After a five-game run for Hercog, the 22-year-old finally managed to win a game, but the damage had been done.
Hercog comfortably took the set 6-1 in 29 minutes. Bencic won less than 10 points combined on her serve and made just three out of 14 on returns. She had a huge hill to climb if she wanted to make an impression in the match.
But the second set marked a sharp turnaround in the Swiss' fortunes. Showing patience in the long exchanges, Bencic opened the set with a hold to love and made a strong attempt for a break in the next game.
Despite not getting the lead, the third seed had signaled her intentions by starting to put pressure on Hercog's serve.
Fighting for every point paid off for Bencic, who gained break points early in the eighth game to give her some momentum. She did manage to break and then hold, to take the match to a decider.
Hercog rebounded soon and raced off to a 3-0 lead in the third set, allowing Bencic just three out of 12 points. But after another conference with her coach, Bencic devised a plan to get out of the hole.
She held serve in the fourth game and followed that by a break, which brought the set back on level terms. The third seed soon got another break before consolidating with a hold in the eighth game, getting to within sniffing distance of victory.
Despite losing the opportunity for a double break, the 22-year-old put the finishing touches in the 10th game to complete the comeback which took 1 hour and 58 minutes to accomplish.