In Melbourne, Belinda Bencic qualified Thursday for the third round of the Australian Open, beating Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, in three hung sets and 2:39 hours of play (7-5 2-6 6-4). The end of the game sums up what this meeting was, fierce but which never really took off due to too many unforced errors, on both sides (52 for Bencic) and other (50 for Kuznetsova).
Serving to win the game at 5-3, the Saint-Welshwoman dropped three match points, one of which was due to a double fault, lost her break in advance before finally concluding with the next service game from a Kuznetsova just as feverish despite his 35 years. The two players shared the legitimate excuse of having been among the athletes strictly confined for two weeks in a hotel room.
“I hung on”
This is not the case for Bencic’s opponent in the next round, the Belgian Elise Mertens, a little less well classified (she is 20th in the WTA, Bencic 12th) but much more fit since she has just won the one of the preparatory tournaments organized before the Australian Open. Mertens has the most wins on the tour since returning to play in August 2020.
Belinda Bencic is still a long way from that level of confidence. Faced with Kuznetsova, an opponent who has always given her problems (the Russian knows how to press where it hurts, and insisted on Bencic’s failing forehand), she often got angry with herself. “I talked a lot to each other, and not just to encourage myself,” she euphemized after the meeting, for the spectators of the Margaret Court Arena (the second largest on the site), including few understand insults in Slovak.
At a press conference, and in English, Belinda Bencic explained her relief at having come through without, once again, playing very well. “It was hard, as always against her. I hung on and at the end, I’m really happy with the victory. ”
The defending champion eliminated
She and Elise Mertens are from the same generation (fifteen months apart), but have never faced each other. “I know her well, but I haven’t played her since the juniors,” Belinda Bencic explained. It will be difficult and I do not consider myself the favorite. ”
This is a good thing because in Melbourne the favorites are suffering. After Bianca Andreescu on Wednesday, another seed fell and not the least: defending champion Sofia Kenin, released in straight sets (6-3 6-2) by Estonian Kaiai Kanepi, 65th in the world. The American, who confessed at the start of the tournament to her difficulty in managing the expectations linked to her status as defending champion, broke nervously. “Today I had the feeling that I was not really there. My head was not there. I was overtaken by my emotions, ”she admitted in the press room, again on the verge of tears.