Reverse Bagel

By Jane Voigt

August 29, 2014 — Sara Errani had never beaten Venus Williams. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni had her time in the spotlight 13 years ago. And, Belinda Bencic is for real.

What a day at the U.S. Open.

Crowds in Arthur Ashe Stadium cheered for Venus Williams, but her time was up. The 34-year-old, 2-time Open champion, could not muster the grit that may have carried her to victory when she had it on her racquet. Errani, though, remained true to her competitive spirit and sealed a berth in week two, 60 06 76(5). 

Some could blame Venus’s tight schedule. She played doubles late yesterday afternoon and was scheduled for 1 p.m. today. But that reasoning is hollow given the reverse bagel she handed Errani in the second set. But the unforced forehand errors came fast and all at the most critical of moments — serving for the match. 

Errani, always a spark plug of energy, has learned to accept her limitations, one being her height. She is five-foot-five inches tall. She and David Ferrer, also of smaller stature, agree “We have to fight with what we have,” Errani told Tennis Channel.

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Sara Errani loses to Belinda Bencic at Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina,  on April 4, 2014. Photo credit tennisclix.com

Errani next plays Mirjana Lucic-Baroni who dismissed one of the tournament favorites, Simona Halep (No. 2), 76(6) 62. 

In 1999 and before she married, Mirjana Lucic was considered a potential top-20 player; although her highest ranking peaked in the spring of 1998 at No. 32. That year she was a semifinalist at Wimbledon. 

Gone from the tour from 2001 though 2010, her comeback has been marked by first-round losses in 13 of the 17 slams she entered. Because her ranking is well outside the top 100, Mirjana had to qualify for the main draw at this Open. 

Her upset of Halep plus Errani’s win over Williams opens that section of the draw, which is lead by Maria Sharapova (No. 5) and includes heavyweights such as Sabine Lisicki, Caroline Wozniacki, and Andrea Petkovic. Before the day is out, though, two of those four women will be eliminated.

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Belinda Bencic steps into a backhand at Family Circle Cup in April, 2014. Photo credit tennisclix.com

There’s been a lot of chatter about the teen sensations this week — CiCi Bellis, Nicole Gibbs — are two. However, coming in under the radar is an extraordinary 17-year-old, Belinda Bencic. Today she made a big name for herself by defeating Angelique Kerber (No. 6) of Germany, 61 75. In Bencic’s own words, she played a good match from the start.

One year ago the Swiss talent was playing ITF Junior tennis. Now in her first U.S. Open main draw appearance, she has played her way to the second week. And, like they say, that’s when the tournament really begins. 

Bencic won the Roland Garros Junior French Championships in 2013 and went on to win The Junior Championships at Wimbledon two weeks later, defeating American Taylor Townsend. At the U.S. Open she lost in the quarterfinals. 

At the end of 2013, Bencic was ranked No. 212 by the WTA. She is currently No. 58, her highest singles ranking. 

Bencic did not seem bothered on the big stage of New York. She played her aggressive baseline style and pressured Kerber. 

“I think all the confidence comes from the years before in the juniors,” Bencic explained. 

And a lot of confidence has come from Melanie Molitor, her coach since Bencic was four years old and enrolled in Molitor’s tennis academy in Zurich. Molitor is most famous for coaching her daughter Martina Hingis, who in 1996 became the youngest Grand Slam winner of all time. 

“From when I was small, I knew that I would not hit the ball so hard,” Bencic told The New York Times. “But I learned how to play smart, and when you combine a good serve and powerful shots with smart shots, I think it’s good."

Hingis follows the progress of Bencic and sees her at major tournaments, according to the same article in the Times. 

“Almost everything I know I know from her,” Bencic said about Hingis. “She taught me to have an overall game."

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013