Petra Martic had the best service performance that earned her a meaningful victory at the Volvo Car Open on Friday. The Croatian had very little problems against ninth-seeded Belinda Bencic who couldn’t bring it together and fell in straight sets 6-3, 6-4 on Volvo Car Stadium at the Family Circle Tennis Center. It gave the 28-year-old her first semifinal of the season and the first since Sept. 2018
The Swiss power player faces the Croatian for the first time and carries a straight sets winning streak with her. Comfortable victories against a young Australian and two Americans got her back to the last eight for the first time in five years. With one step before reaching a second career semifinal in the tournament, the 22-year-old had to be on her toes to defeat Martic who had to go the distance twice so far. With the efforts put in, she might have what it takes to counter the surging Swiss player and change the main draw significantly.
She took a surprising 3-0 lead on Bencic attacking her return game that took its toll on the offensive side of her opponent. The ninth seed struggled with the second serve that put her in that hole and Martic in a comfortable spot. On her second try, the Swiss star ran neck and neck in the fourth but edged ahead to hold serve. By the sixth, she cut the Croatian’s margin in half but there was a lot of ground to recover.
The level of Martic was significantly higher that allowed her to comfortably record another hold of serve and play for the set. Bencic gained a hold to try and show her opponent that she wasn’t done but the plan didn’t fall her way.
Though she gave the Croatian a challenge on serve, Martic managed to force deuce that led to a long extension of the game. They went through four breaks where she saved two break points while creating set point opportunities to get the set locked down in 38 minutes. Despite losing her first set, the serve of Bencic’s improved to try and make a full turnaround.
During the set break, Martic called down her coach who voiced her pleasure on the way her player was taking control and kept that confidence compact to help her continue the success into the second set.
Both players stayed on serve through four games with Bencic having a stronger serve percentage from her end. It suddenly disappeared in the fifth when she erred to fall behind on the score when a double fault handed Martic the break.
Bencic tried to find some focus and keep the Croatian in touch but at a moment when she had game points, she returned shots wide to put her opponent on deuce. She went with a crosscourt groundstroke strategy to pressure the 16th seed and get the hold after two breaks. Martic inched closer with another hold that put her at 5-3 with the Swiss star playing to stay alive.
Bencic put her backhand to work that kept the Croatian back enough to sit one game from a possible tie. After some readjusting of her shoes, the 28-year-old served for the match in a comfortable manner drawing the errors from Bencic to attain two match points. Despite one going on a long ball, the 16th seed completed the upset with a sliced return that caused Bencic’s to land long of the baseline ending 1 hour and 22 minutes.
With just two games left to attain another title, Martic will await the winner between Monica Puig and Danielle Collins to sum up Saturday’s matchup.Published 06 Apr 2019, 08:55 IST