Porsche Tennis Grand Prix: Bencic slams the door on Minella's winning streak
Belinda Bencic made good work of her serve to come out successfully at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix on Wednesday. The Swiss star had two dozen winners that helped her keep Mandy Minella at bay with a 6-2, 6-4 win on court at the Porsche Arena.
The two met for the first time in a main draw with the Luxembourger having a three-match winning streak from qualifications. Bencic returned to action after back-to-back losses that nearly made it three weeks since she last played. Coming back to the tournament after four years had her hoping that her strength on clay grew strong enough to take down Minella who made her debut.
The world number 20 began her match with a break followed by a clean serve to love that opened the gap early. Minella made sure that a hold came from her end to cut into the margin made but Bencic answered with another strong hold in the fourth. Opportunities for a break came to the qualifier but holding off the 22-year-old was another story as she rushed through the next three games to sit at 5-2 serving for the set.
Comfortably gaining two chances to get it done, the world number 20 saw it come to an end in 33 minutes with Minella returning a ball long. Despite having 11 errors and a double fault, Bencic remained firm on the first serve, hitting 73 percent and seven of ten points were won on the second serve.
While it wasn’t a dominating stance, she still had another set to compete and Minella was far from out. The two held serve through four games until the Swiss star managed to break the 33-year-old in the fifth game. With a leg up, the 22-year-old wanted to contain serve but the Luxembourger was responding well against her. She leveled the score at three-all but soon trailed after Bencic firmly held the seventh game.
An impeccable display of firepower from Bencic earned her another step forward to sit on a 5-3 hold with Minella serving to stay alive in the match. The 33-year-old put together a string of terrific shots that extended the match to put her a game from evening the set. Bencic still had a shot at ending the day for herself but anger over calls that went against her proved costly as she let her frustrations come into play. A long ball return from Minella handing her a match point came after an eight-shot rally finished with another long ball and the match ended in 1 hour and 15 minutes.
“It was a difficult first round match,” Bencic said during her on-court interview. “I think Mandy was mixing the pace really well and the key was holding my service games and try to keep aggressive and happy that I’m through.” It was her first time playing a match on indoor clay which she responded well to both physically and verbally.
“I always prepare for different surfaces a little bit better but I’m generally really happy to be back on the clay. I have zero points to defend the whole season so I can be relaxed with no expectations and just enjoy it and try to get a little bit better on this surface.”
She’ll hope for that and more as the difficulty rises facing Kiki Bertens on Thursday in the second round.