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Shenzhen Open 2020: Belinda Bencic goes down in three sets to Anna Blinkova

  • Blinkova wins first-ever match against the number one seed in hard-fought encounter.
Rudy Martinez
ANALYST
News
Modified 07 Jan 2020, 13:34 IST

Anna Blinkova
Anna Blinkova

Anna Blinkova racked up one of the biggest wins of her career at the Shenzhen Open Tuesday. The Russian put up quite a challenge to the feet of top-seeded Belinda Bencic, who failed to jump on line drives and committed errors ending in a 3-6,6-3,6-3 result on Centre Court at the Shenzhen Longgang Sports Center. It was Blinkova’s first top-ten career win and got her a passage into the second round.

The top seed, making her first appearance in Shenzhen, was set to pick up from her successful 2019 run. Major improvements from the Swiss star allowed her to rally back into the WTA top ten with a 51-25 record. Having won two major tournaments, Bencic was ready to meet Blinkova for the first time and reach the next round. The Russian made it to the main draw for the second year but knew that Bencic was a big obstacle and she would have to be at her best to cause an upset.

Blinkova battled well through the first two games but was unable to break Bencic early nor hold serve in the second. Despite the loss, the Russian got on the board in the third when Bencic’s service faded away with back-to-back double faults. The number one seed had a terrific turnaround in the fourth with a great court position that increasingly made it difficult for Blinkova to return. Bencic ran through her service in the following game that saw the young Russian allowing free points slip by.

It led her to take a conference break with coach Vladimir Platenik who asked her to put more placement in the rallies. The strategy didn’t pan out well for the 28-year-old who found herself down 5-1 with the Swiss superstar serving for the set. Blinkova managed to stave off the top seed, winning a break in the seventh, hoping that another victory would follow.

A serve to love put the Russian down two games of completing a comeback. Bencic wouldn’t allow that to occur as she built together three set points winning on a long return from Blinkova ending 34 minutes of play. The 22-year-old won 11 of 15 from the first service that did the most damage to Blinkova, whose return game suffered scoring on just 4 of 15.

Knowing her need to dig in, Blinkova scored a serve to love to open the second, but Bencic was right there with a response. Getting into another gear, the Swiss was at every ball in the third, making it a tight battle. Blinkova took it with an ace down the T completing the service. The two continued to hold serve through five games until the sixth became the most competitive. Blinkova put Bencic under pressure until the fifth break when she captured the break.

The momentum changed even when Bencic held serve in the eighth. The Russian cruised through her serves that led her to victory in the ninth, leaving two set points to go the distance after 43 minutes. The task did not deter the 28-year-old, who took the first pair of games improving in six of the last seven played.

Bencic got on the board in the decider with her third serve to love before calling out her coach/father Ivan Bencic. Showing anger, the number one seed continued expressing her frustrations on the court that led to Blinkova surging forward.


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A second ace down the T gave the Russian a 3-1 lead over Bencic, who managed to hold serve, yet still trailed Blinkova. The world number 58 recorded two more aces to reach 4-2 with Bencic feeling the pressure. The Swiss held despite a fight at deuce, where she needed two breaks to secure the service. Blinkova made her time with the ball look easy, setting up her shot at 5-3 to play for the match. Bencic caught a break to force deuce on serve, but unforced errors ultimately ended her day in defeat in 1 hour and 53 minutes.

Published 07 Jan 2020, 13:34 IST
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