World No. 5 Belinda Bencic says she has fond memories of her run to the title at the WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships last year - which was her first title on the tour in more than three years. Speaking to The National, Bencic, who returns to defend her title next week, says, "I just remember in every match I was down, I was not leading the match for sure and somehow I always managed to turn it around and come back.
It was really nice, I had nothing to lose, I played great, I felt great, because I played three-set matches. Overall it was a very emotional week for me”. Her run even impressed her countryman and Swiss legend Roger Federer, who won the men's title in Dubai one week later.
"I thought the way she did it was tremendous. I’m happy that everything is coming together with her father and her fitness coach right now”. That run in Dubai led to a great season for Bencic in 2019 - she reached her first Grand Slam semi-final at the US Open, beating the defending champion Naomi Osaka on the way, she also qualified for the WTA Finals at the end of the year, where she reached the semi-finals.
“I was really close with Bianca [Andreescu] in that [semi-final] match. You’re in the semi-final you kind of feel like anything can happen for you and I definitely want to have the belief that I can play a couple of times Grand Slams like this and then eventually give my luck a chance by always being there." With those results, and the most three-set wins on tour, the most top-five wins, and the second-most top-10 victories, she was voted WTA Comeback Player of the Year for 2019.
"I’m always motivated for every match but it’s no secret I play the best against the best and on big stages so I definitely love that feeling. Last year, I learned about myself that really everything is possible.
That hard work, it always takes a while to kind of set in. I definitely learned that I still have a lot of things to improve but that I can truly believe in myself that if I play well, I’m one of the best”. In 2020, Bencic says she missed the Hopman Cup event where she had partnered with Roger Federer to win the tile in 2018 and 2019 and hopes that there will also be a women's version or a mixed version of the ATP Cup in the future.
"I feel like I can’t start with a title because Roger is not by side, he can’t win anything for me, I have to do it myself and it’s not going well,. No, I definitely miss Hopman Cup a lot but I have to say I watched the ATP Cup also on TV and it was really entertaining and exciting.
Hopefully, maybe in the future there can be a competition also for women, or women and men, it would be really exciting, even for the crowd, because it’s just something different if mixed doubles is also happening”.