WTA Indian Wells: Inspired Belinda Bencic dethrones Naomi Osaka


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WTA Indian Wells: Inspired Belinda Bencic dethrones Naomi Osaka

Playing against each other for the first time since 2013, Belinda Bencic took down the world no. 1 and reigning Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka 6-3, 6-1 in just 66 minutes to extend her winning streak. The Swiss headed to Indian Wells as one of the seeds after winning her biggest title since Toronto 2015 in Dubai, delivering fury from serve to leave the Japanese far behind and march into the quarters.

Osaka managed to create two break points and she grabbed one break, needing much more than that to stay competitive after dropping more than 50% of the points in her games, playing with no rhythm or with the idea how to impose her strokes.

Belinda controlled the match from start to finish, hitting from the comfort zone and moving Naomi around the court to force errors and awkward shots from her coeval and the winner of the previous two Grand Slam titles. There were worrying signs for Osaka right from the start, netting a backhand to drop serve in the opening game and spraying a forehand error in game five to find herself 4-1 down.

The Swiss double faulted at 5-2 to give one break of serve away but she blasted a backhand down the line return winner a few minutes later for a 6-3 and a massive momentum before the start of the decider. There, she saved a break point in the opening game and forced an error from Osaka to grab an early break for a 2-0 lead, dropping just three points in the remaining service games and extending the advantage to 5-1 when Naomi placed a forehand beyond the baseline in game six.

Serving for another impressive win throughout the last couple of weeks, Bencic landed a volley winner in the seventh game for a 6-1 and the commanding victory that puts her in the title chase if she maintains this level. In the last match of Tuesday's program, the 8th seed Angelique Kerber took down Aryna Sabalenka 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in an hour and 43 minutes, beating the Belarusian in their first encounter to grab the last quarter-final invitation.

The German lost serve four times although that wasn't a problem in the end, stealing almost half of the return points to count to 17 break points, converting seven to move over the top. Angelique clinched the opener in 30 minutes with three straight breaks, opening a 2-0 advantage in set number two before Sabalenka started to play better, taking six out of the next eight games to reign on serve and break Kerber at 3-3 for a 6-4.

Aryna was in a better and better position as the match progressed, opening a 4-1 lead in the decider with a double break before Kerber kicked off her streak, rattling off the last five games to steal the triumph, breaking Sabalenka three times in a row for a great escape and an important win.