Belinda Bencic went to the brink at times in her second round match but figured out a way to win at the championships at Wimbledon Thursday. She had a huge challenge against Alison Riske who trounced her in the opening set, went the distance in the second before getting out of a stall in the decider that gave her a 1-6, 7-6(10), 6-2 win on Court 16 at the All England Tennis Club.
The two met for the first time in two years where the Swiss miss won a reverse score of their Tianjin final back in 2014 to start the Australian Open. They both had solid victories to begin their Wimbledon odyssey with Bencic gaining the biggest win in her career since Toronto 2015. It was the upset over Caroline Garcia that gave the once top ten competitor confidence to rev her skills back up to speed against the American. With both looking for progress beyond the second round, it would be up to who could come out of the gate best on serve.
Riske was the one to do so as she kept a well-rounded first serve that beat up the return game of Bencic. When she had the ball in hand, the double faults came to give Riske a 2-0 lead. She went up 3-0 easily attacking the second serve of Bencic to coast along in the set. Bencic to hold of her second service game of the set but had to fight back Riske’s surging momentum to hold.
Though she avoided a shutout, the American went back to serve the fifth where she nailed down her fourth win of the set keeping the pressure on Bencic. After getting her second break on the Swiss player, Riske locked down the set in 27 minutes making it difficult for Bencic’s offense to build up. Both had three double faults at the end of seven games though kept the errors low against one another.
They began the set holding serve until a surge in the third came to Riske attacking Bencic’s service. The 21-year-old fought to deuce saving break points in the process but unable to achieve the service hold. Bencic went for it in the fourth fighting for possession of the AD point in the fourth and on the fourth break point, she got herself leveled back. The strong show of force earned consolidated the hold of serve in the fifth getting out front for the first time in the set.
She had a step up in the late stages but Riske was showing her strengths matching better on her service holds that got her leveled after the eighth. With her closing in on a possible straight sets projection and Bencic going for a third, the next few games would determine who would get their wish. The 21-year-old’s third consecutive hold was one of serious determination as she blew three game points before capitalizing on it.
It was up to Riske to keep her hopes alive in the set and did so with a hold that took them to extra frames. Bencic was still on a roll with the improvement of her serve as she once again took the lead in the 11th pressuring Riske to either drop the game or going to a tiebreak. The two played every point in the 12th until a shot on set point came to Bencic but disappeared on a Riske ace. She gained another for the AD point that sent them to the tiebreak.
Bencic took off with a 3-1 lead before the American rallied back to even the score at three all. Riske reached four straight points before she let a ball land long of the baseline putting the Swiss star down a point. It was five all on a second giveaway with her serve getting out of hand. She got to match point on a very lucky drive that caught the line but lost it on a rally-ending ball into the net. It was becoming a tug of war for control as Riske had trouble putting Bencic away. She blew four match points and gave four set points that let Bencic succeed at playing the third set.
After Bencic easily broke Riske to begin the set, she found the pace a lot slower as she fought to contain her service game. The American had three break points but couldn’t quickly get it locked. She gave up one but took some time to secure it on the second attempt. Holding serve was another slow process as the players fought every point to extend the game each time. They elapsed 29 minutes after four games which had them deadlocked holding serve through four games. The tension was angering Bencic who was not only having issues with not having hawk eye on court but the pace that stalled for so long.
Some part of her turned on the heat against the American and broke to three straight to serve a shot at the third round. On a six-shot rally for match point, Bencic got the win with a long drive landing long of the baseline to bring an end to 2 hours and 24 minutes. With her best foot forward and a show of progress to keep fighting, the 21-year-old would try to do it against Carla Suarez Navarro on Saturday.