A year ago, the 21-year-old Belinda Bencic conquered Dubai by a storm to claim the first WTA title since Toronto 2015, beating four top-10 rivals and playing on a very high level after a couple of troubled years due to injuries.
The Swiss was also the semi-finalist at the US Open, earning enough points to make a debut at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen and finishing the season in the top-10 for the first time in a career. Despite a mediocre 6-5 score at the beginning of 2020, Belinda cracked the top-4 for the first time, heading to Dubai with a career-high ranking and hoping to defend the title won a year ago.
Instead of that, the Swiss lost to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 1-6, 6-1, 6-1 in an hour and 30 minutes, in what has been one of the strangest results on the WTA Tour this year! Belinda won the first 19 points, forging a 4-0 40-0 advantage in just over ten minutes and storming over the Russian to hold the strings of the encounter firmly in her hands.
Serving at 5-1, the Swiss closed the opener with a service winner after 23 minutes, delivering another break at the beginning of the second set to race towards the finish line. With no room for errors, Pavlyuchenkova broke back at love with a backhand down the line winner, securing another break in game four and moving 5-1 up with a forehand drive-volley winner before closing the set with a hold at 15 for a 6-1 and momentum ahead of the decider.
Losing ground completely, world no. 4 got broken four times in the final set (seven times in a row) and propelled Anastasia over the finish line despite a perfect start. "I'm trying to analyze what went wrong or what was the turning point.
I think sometimes it's even too dangerous when you start very well and then tennis turns it around. At this point, I still don't know what happened and I am still looking for an answer," Bencic said. "Of course, I'm disappointed.
I feel like I have to work very hard to regain my confidence and will do that. I will give everything in practice sessions to regain confidence again. Hopefully, in one or two matches, the momentum can turn around, it can click and then I can turn things around."