"I was like two points away from the exit in the first round, and I feel like this is how you win the tournament...I'm just really relieved I served it out," Belinda Bencic gave a big grin as she was glad to get not only the win but the Charleston event over Ons Jabeur in three sets.
The 2022 season had been stressful enough as the Swiss had tested positive for COVID after participating in the Abu Dhabi Championships in December. She was knocked out of the Australian Open's 2nd round by Amanda Anisimova.
It took her a few tournaments before she could get her groove back that she would suffer opening match losses in back to back events: first in Qatar then at Indian Wells. Things weren't looking very nice for the Swiss who was trying to get back to her superior strategies as she had in obtaining a gold medal in the Tokyo Games; a battle that she fought and won against Marketa Vondrousova in three hard fought sets.
The Miami Open she'd make it to the semifinal round but ousted by Naomi Osaka. She felt making it good at Charleston would give her the confidence needed to do well in future tournaments. As Bencic made it through the rounds at Daniel Island in South Carolina, she had to prove her endurance and variety in order to win.
She'd work her strategies through Madison Keys with the Round of 16 and then a tough 3-sets with Paula Badosa, but knew the fight wasn't over until tournament's end. The final with Tunisia's Ons Jabeur proved her determination on fighting and winning.
"I think Ons, she took everything from me today...I just really didn't know what to do anymore..." Bencic had disgustingly said. The Swiss floated through the opening set in barely 30 minutes winning 6-1. Jabeur is a fighter and she played gritty enough to win the 2nd set 7-5 with down the lines, drop shots and just switching up on strategies to perplex an already frustrated Bencic.
"I think she played great in the second set, " Belinda said but she knew it would take all she had to win her first Charleston championship. Jabeur led early in the third and deciding set but her game was becoming unglued as playing situations accumulated.
First it was the roof, then the shade from the sun on court. The Tunisian gave praise to her opponent saying, "Tough match. Really, Belinda plays really well." Bencic's experience and mental steadiness paved the way for her success at clicking into her maiden Charleston title winning 6-1, 5-7, 6-4.
"I'm super relieved, just really happy," is all the Swiss new title holder could say as she smiled and waved to the applauding crowd. She will now enter the clay court season inspired and confident upon victory of her first clay crown and excited to see what future tournaments will hold.