US Open 2019: Belinda Bencic enters maiden Slam semifinal with solid win over Donna Vekic
Belinda Bencic made history for herself and Switzerland at the US Open Wednesday. She enjoyed a late flourish over Donna Vekic to march into the semifinals with a 7-6(3), 6-3 at Arthur Ashe Stadium. In the process, the 22-year-old became the first female Swiss player to enter the final four of a Slam since Martina Hingis in 2001.
Both Bencic and Vekic showed their best tennis this tournament with the Croatian reaching her first-ever quarterfinal at a Major and her Swiss opponent making her second try for a semifinal in New York. The two had met three times previously, with one hardcourt appearance in New Haven five years ago where Bencic took Vekic out in straight sets.
With a lot at stake for the two European stars, confidence and focus were always going to be the keys to entering the first semifinal of their career.
The two fought fiercely in the opening game with Vekic chomping away to get the break, but Bencic held firm from deuce. The 23rd seed then nailed a hold to love followed by one from Bencic.
Another battle ensued in the fourth that saw Vekic holding her opponent back, which took some energy out of her and gave the 13th seed an easy hold in the fifth. They continued to hold firm on serve through the eighth game, but a sudden loss of focus got the 13th seed into trouble at 4-4.
She battled to deuce but handed the break to Vekic and returned to her bench in anger. Bencic used that emotion to break the Croatian back and get to five games apiece, after which she produced a beautiful service game ending with a nice crosscourt forehand to make it 6-5.
Vekic was on a mission of her own though, and she saved a set point to take the set to a tiebreaker. Both players traded mini-breaks until a decisive one from Bencic gave her a 4-2 lead.
The 23rd seed got back to within a point but watched in despair as Bencic gained a 6-3 lead for three set points. Vekic saved the first two but the last rally ended with a ball going long, giving the Swiss the set after an hour of play.
Both had a strong first serve in the first set, with each winning more than 80 percent of the points off it. They made the same amount of mistakes but the edge went to the world number 13 as she won three more points than Vekic did on the second serve.
Sitting a set down, Vekic knew she needed a strong start in the second and got one by holding the Swiss down to just a single point in her opening service game. The Croat threatened to break in the next game by forcing deuce, but the 13th seed remained firm.
The service holds continued through the sixth, with Bencic scoring another hold to love, before turning the tables with her baseline consistency. A break to love in the seventh game gave her a massive boost of confidence going into the eighth.
She held back the 23rd seed just enough to consolidate the break and go all-out to break Vekic again for the match. The Croat struggled to stay focused and gave her opponent plenty of room that handed the Swiss two match points.
Bencic squandered both to take the game to deuce, and Vekic gained the first AD point on a crosscourt return. But a wide error blew her chance to hold and a bad break with the net gave Bencic a third match point.
The Swiss she sealed it by forcing Vekic to hit a forehand that landed slightly wide, ending the match in 1 hour and 41 minutes.