Belinda Bencic has been the best player on the Tour in recent weeks, winning the title in Dubai and marching towards another one at Indian Wells after a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over Karolina Pliskova. The Swiss has won ten of the last 13 encounters against the top-10 rivals and six in a row to return into the top-20 for the first time since August 2016 and score her most significant result at Indian Wells.
Belinda needed two hours and 16 minutes to dismiss the Czech in their first meeting, playing better on both the first and second serve to fend off five out of seven break points. Those two breaks were not enough for Karolina for a more favorable result, playing against 16 break points and giving serve four times to end her run in the quarters.
A return winner kicked off the party for Belinda in the third game for an early break, dropping eight points on serve in the opener and securing it with a forehand down the line winner that secured another break in the ninth game.
Pliskova delivered necessary changes in set number two, creating more damage on the return and opening a 4-0 lead after saving three break points in the fourth game. Bencic pulled one break back at love in the sixth game when she landed a forehand winner and earning two more break points that could have sent her closer to the finish line.
Karolina repelled them to stay in front, saving another break point in game ten to seize the fifth set point and level the overall score before the decider. Belinda was back at her best in the final set, sailing through service games and missing a chance to secure the break in the fourth game when Karolina saved four break points to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard.
Nonetheless, the Swiss grabbed 12 of the last 15 points to cross the finish line first, breaking at 15 at 4-3 when Pliskova sprayed a forehand error and sealing the deal with a service winner in the following game to advance into the semis.
"Karolina and I practiced a few times together, we are good friends and I know her game and she knows mine. She knows she has the big serve and big groundstrokes and I planned to try to make her rally and try to be good in the defensive, and then, you know, also try to be dominant when I can.
I'm very confident at the moment, just trying to take it one step at a time but without putting pressure on myself, I'm just playing. I said yesterday the less I think on the court the better it is. When you're confident, you can just trust your instincts and you don't have to think about it at all.
I'm playing how I feel it, and it's going well, so I'm not planning on changing that. I have been practicing it a lot, but it's not like I crazy thought about it and changed something. I feel with the serve, it's very..
like, the balance is very thin. When you're trying to change your serve, it can also destroy your game because you're thinking about it all the time. If something is not working and you're thinking technical, then it's not good.
You know, I think I also started to feel it a little bit more myself, what I have to do. Yeah, as I said, the service motion is also just instinct. I wouldn't believe I win today again. So, yeah, it feels great, but it's not like something very new.
I played Angie this year in Hopman Cup and against Venus last time at the Australian Open. It's incredible to play those kinds of champions in the semi-final of premier mandatory tournaments. Of course, you know they are great players, but you're seeing them as a player with tactical sides.
I'm focusing on myself, on my game, just doing my best. I think I did great steps forward on the fitness side. I feel like I'm moving much, much better on the court than I have ever moved. And also, you know, I never feel like I'm getting tired or, like, more tired than my opponent on the court.
I think that was a huge improvement. I think you need it against the top of the world to be just incredibly fit and not just, like, one week but many weeks in a row. Well, I was working with Martina Hingis' mother when I was..
I mean, from 6 years old until 18. Martina, when she was in the tournaments, she was helping me a lot. Now she's still engaged in the Fed Cup. So we have a contact there. You know, she gives me any advice, yeah."