Belinda Bencic’s victory was never secure in a marathon match at the Qatar Total Open on Tuesday night. The Swiss star saw chances slip away time and again against Veronika Kudermetova, who let up just enough in a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(4) match on court one at the Khalifa International Tennis Center.
For the Swiss star, meeting the Russian for the fourth time meant another stiff challenge. The world number 38 defeated Bencic twice in their history with her recent win dating back to Wuhan. Her victory over Kristina Mladenovic Sunday put her in play with Bencic to dig up trouble again and add a top ten win to her profile. Bencic earned a pass in the opening round, making her first match a challenge with Kudermetova.
She delivered a serve to love to open the match, but erred to give the Russian some momentum. Kudermetova held serve, then went after a break chance in the third to lead the fourth seed. Bencic managed to break back, but as she got to serve in the fifth, two double faults rattled her game. Needing deuce to save her, the Swiss star secured the game, finding some stability in the set. The two returned to service holds with the Swiss star leading the Russian by the end of the seventh.
Bencic fought off Kudermetova in the ninth before going for the set with her return game. The fourth seed edged the Russian in the tenth gaining the key break point that gave her the lead in the match after 40 minutes.
The second set began with Kudermetova breaking Bencic easily in the first and consolidated it with a hold. The Swiss answered with a hold to love in the third, but gaining a break wasn’t in the cards. The Russian opened the gap briefly before it became a one-game margin through seven games. A big fight ensued with Bencic forcing deuce in the eighth that led the two into a long draw. After five breaks of deuce and four break points produced, the fourth seed leveled the score but floundered with her service game at the wrong time.
Kudermetova captured the key break in the ninth, consolidating it with a hold in the tenth that evened the match at one-all after 47 minutes. Two double faults from Bencic in the set shuddered her second serve and return game that exposed vulnerabilities in her offense.
To keep it together, Bencic delivered with a serve to love before the Russian matched it in the second. She went on to gain a break over the fourth seed, widening her lead two games in the fourth. The Swiss held in the fifth but continued to trail Kudermetova, who was not letting her serve fall apart. A fourth service game was held by Bencic who cut the Russian’s lead in half and went all in to even it up. Kudermetova had to force deuce in the eighth but AD point opportunities were limited. Bencic’s second break point leveled the two at four-all making it a fight to the finish.
On serve in the ninth, Bencic fought off a push from the Russian who forced deuce but couldn’t take the chance for the break. She found herself serving to stay in the set with the Swiss star biting at the bit to end the match. Kudermetova got into trouble late with a failed challenge that gave Bencic match point. A great crosscourt forced deuce for the Russian who used that strategy to get her back in contention with a five-all score.
Control in the 11th was fierce as both wanted to be in a position to play for the match. They went to deuce where the smallest of errors frustrated both as they had the game within reach. After nearly 12 minutes, seven breaks, and 19 points played, Bencic held to lead 6-5 to try and prevent the tiebreak Kudermetova wanted. The Russian got it as Bencic erred just enough to bring her to deuce and hold serve.
With the tiebreak left to play, Bencic made sure she had the first point gaining two mini-breaks before her serve. Taking a 3-1 lead, Bencic gave up a point to the Russian losing the gap on a forehand error. She rallied to 5-3 with breaks on Kudermetova, reaching her second match point. Despite a bad beat from Kudermetova’s net-front lob, Bencic made three a charm as she got it done on a final error from the Russian, ending a 2 hour and 38-minute drama on court.