Just a year ago, she was on her way to winning the Wimbledon junior title.
Today, Belinda Bencic is through to her first grand slam third round and is set to take on No.3 seed Simona Halep for a spot in the second week.
Considered she was ranked 300 spots below her current ranking of 71 this time last year, Bencic’s rapid rise has been phenomenal, particularly for a 17-year-old who has the added pressure of being dubbed the “New Martina Hingis”.
“I’m motivated that Switzerland is thinking this of me. I’m really motivated to do better,” said Bencic.
“I don’t really try to let the pressure come to me. I just focus on the game.
“It all went really quick. I don’t know if it’s a surprise or not. I’m really happy that I could start in the main draw here after winning the juniors last year.”
Halep will be Bencic’s third top-five opponent of the season and the young Swiss says she’s looking forward to facing the Roland Garros runner-up.
“She played the French Open final and she’s the third seed here. So I’m really just happy to play her,” said Bencic.
“No pressure tomorrow. I will just play my best game. Of course I’m going to the court and I think I have a chance to beat her and I really want to win.”
Halep acknowledges she is a heavy favourite against her opponent but the Romanian herself had never made it past the second round at major prior to last year’s US Open and says she wants to enjoy her first third round experience at the All England Club.
“She has nothing to lose against me. Also, I have nothing to lose because it’s my first time in the third round here in Wimbledon. On grass it’s always difficult to play. So I have my chance tomorrow. I will fight for it,” said Halep.
Meanwhile, despite Spain’s early exit from this year’s World Cup, the action in Brazil has been a nice distraction for Rafael Nadal, who faces Mikhail Kukushkin in the third round today.
The world No1, who was stretched to four sets in each of his first two rounds, says he relishes the change in routine he gets to enjoy during Wimbledon, particularly in a World Cup year.
“It’s easier (to switch off between my matches) when it is a World Cup year,” said the two-time Wimbledon champion.
“We are in a nice house. I have my coaches here. I have Marc Lopez with me at the house. I have my team. We play little bit of different games. Maybe one day we go out.
“But seriously we go to restaurants every single day of the rest of the year. So when we are here I like to cook, I like to be a little bit more relaxed at home and see the World Cup. I love football.”
There was no drama for Andy Murray as he registered his 16th consecutive victory at the All England Club with a comprehensive 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 win over Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round yesterday.
Murray, who won the title last year as well as the Olympic gold medal on the same grounds in 2012, has now advanced to the last 16 for an eighth time in nine years (he missed the event in 2007 with a wrist injury).
Up until the end of the second set, Murray had won 100 per cent (23 of 23) first serve points and handled everything the flat-hitting Bautista Agut threw at him with ease.
The defending champion converted eight of 16 break points and even though he was broken once in each of the second and third sets, his double break buffer allowed him to advance in a mere 95 minutes.
Murray has made the second week for the loss of just 19 games, beating his previous Wimbledon best of 26 games conceded in 2010. “I responded well, it’s been a good first week,” said Murray. “I had plenty of long matches at the French Open to get me physically ready for this.”
Murray next faces No20 seed Kevin Anderson, who ended his five-match losing streak against top 20 opposition by outlasting Italian No16 seed Fabio Fognini 4-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 and become the first South African man to reach the last 16 at Wimbledon in 14 years.
Grigor Dimitrov, a potential quarter-final opponent for Murray, conceded he played a sub-par matchbut was happy to overcome Ukrainian No21 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-7(3), 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 – the Bulgarian’s third career five-set victory.
Former champion Lleyton Hewitt broke an Open era record for the most five-set matches contested at grand slams playing his 42nd major five-setter yesterday, falling to last year’s semi-finalist Jerzy Janowicz 7-5, 6-4, 6-7(7), 4-6, 6-3 in a match carried over from the previous night.
The Polish, who has now advanced to at least the third round on each of his three appearances here, will face No23 seed Tommy Robredo today for a spot in the second week.
The crowd on Centre Court feared the worst as Novak Djokovic tumbled to the ground, grasping his shoulder in agony midway through the third set against Gilles Simon.
But four games later, Djokovic was smashing his way into the fourth round 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 over the Frenchman, relieving many from the panic that the top seed’s Wimbledon campaign would end prematurely.
“It was obviously a scary fall,” admitted Djokovic after the match. “I tried to land on my left arm. I basically had a strong impact on the shoulder.
“When I stood up I felt that click or pop. I feared maybe it might be a dislocated shoulder or something like that but luckily for me it was only an impact that had a minoreffect on the joint and the muscles around, but no significant damage that can cause a bigger problem. I just came from the doctor’s office, ultrasound. It’s all looking good.”
Djokovic hadn’t lost before the quarter-finals here since 2008 and he was also bidding to extend his six-match winning streak against Simon.
An unlucky net cord on an attempted volley from Simon gave Djokovic the first break of the match in the sixth game but the Frenchman responded immediately and then held serve after a 10-minute game to draw level at 4-4.
Djokovic found a tiny window though in the 10th game to get a set point.
A superb backhand return then set him up beautifully and, three shots later, Simon failed on an attempted running backhand passing shot to hand the set to the world No2.
Djokovic had to save a break point early in the second set but he was the one who drew first blood for a 3-1 lead but Simon broke back benefitting from a sloppy game from Djokovic.
The Serb retaliated and this time held serve for a 4-2 lead.
Two games later, the top seed created a set point with a brilliant backhand down the line and Simon double-faulted to hand over the second set.
Djokovic had gone to the net 25 times in the first two sets and was successful on 19 of those approaches. Simon had the better start in the third set, and got two break points in the opening game on a double fault from Djokovic.
The Frenchman converted on the second then held for a 2-0 lead. But Simon didn’t enjoy his lead that long as Djokovic broke back soon after.
The scary moment for the 2011 champion came while Simon was serving in the fifth game.
Djokovic slipped and fell on his left shoulder which he immediately clutched in pain and called for the trainer.
A concerned Boris Becker and the rest of Djokovic’s team were standing in his box as the trainer attended to the Serb’s shoulder.
Simon double-faulted upon theresumption of the game, but still managed to hold, while Djokovic appeared to be hitting his groundstrokes well following the medical timeout.
The match continued on serve until Djokovic got a match point in game 10. And the 27-year-old sealed the win with an inside-out forehand and overhead smash combination that subsided many worries about his shoulder as he set up a fourth round with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Ironically, Becker, Djokovic’s coach of seven months, was renowned for his dive volleys.
“I talked with Boris. We obviously need to work on my diving volleys, learning how to fall down on the court. I’m not very skillful in that,” joked the six-time major champion. “There is no major damage which means that I’m quite confident that it will not affect my physical state or regimen or daily routine."
Djokovic’s next opponent, Tsonga, has played for the past five consecutive days as his opening two rounds were both played over two days each.
The Frenchman was happy to beat Taipei’s Jimmy Wang 6-2, 6-2, 7-5, avoiding a third straight five-setter this week.