The 21-year-old Belinda Bencic had been one of the biggest prospects among the young guns some half a decade ago, finishing in the top-15 at the age of 18 after winning two WTA titles in 2015. In February next year, she climbed to no.
7 but instead of moving forwards the WTA throne she started to struggle with injuries, finding herself outside the top-150 at the end of 2017. Determined to get back where she belongs, Belinda made significant progress in 2018, advancing into the fourth round at Wimbledon and not hesitating to play on the ITF level to gain form and points, wrapping up the season in the top-40 for the first time in three years.
After five wins in Hobart and the Australian Open, Belinda has hit the zone in Dubai as well, battling past Aryna Sabalenka and Simona Halep to reach the semi-final, the first at Premier 5 level since Toronto 2015 where she went all the way to lift the biggest title in a career.
Against the Belarusian, Belinda repelled six match points to prevail and set Halep clash, coming from a set down for another essential win thanks to a strong performance in the third set and set, boosting confidence ahead of the semi-final clash with the two-time defending champion Elina Svitolina.
“I gained a lot of confidence with that win over Sabalenka,” Bencic said. “Physically I was feeling fine. I was not sleeping very well. But before I had a nap, I ate, had another nap, then I ate. The day is long when you're playing at 7 pm or even later.
I recovered fine. Mentally it gave me confidence. It was good, I was happy with the way I fought and stayed in the match. I'm happy I didn't give up after losing that first set. I didn't give her any free points. I was still there.
Then she gave me something, as well. Really pleased that I made her play those shots, as well, do what she does to me. There are no excuses, just the fact that I'm tired. It's OK. It was really difficult physically. I was tired.
After the second set, I felt like I'm getting cramping a little bit. It's normal. I was sweating a lot. It feels great. I'm back. I knew it was still in me, even after the injuries. You cannot just come back like this and play snapping fingers.
Otherwise, it wouldn't show how good tennis is. Players are playing two, three years constantly on the level, they're playing semi-finals, finals. I had to work my way back. I knew it was in me, but I'm happy that I could finally show it”.