While a whole lot of nothing was happening in Montreal today, things got pretty good in women’s Canadian Open in Toronto.
After a mostly forgettable first semifinal battle between French Open finalists was won by Simona Halep over Sara Errani 6-4, 6-4. There didn’t seem to be hope of any drama in the night match either between Serena Williams and 18-year-old upstart Belinda Bencic.
I watched a little of Belinda play at the US Open last year when she made the quarters. Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed. There wasn’t much to her game, I guess like assistant coach Hingis.
So I thought Serena would cruise tonight taking advantage of Bencic lack of power or any real weaponry. And early on she did just that going up two breaks of serve in the first set 5-1.
But a funny thing happened, the young Bencic wouldn’t go away. She kept pecking and pawing recovering a break but eventually she lost the set 6-3.
OK, well that’s that, I thought.
But in the second it was more of the same, and then Serena’s serve really started breaking down (she finished with 12 double faults). Then as 20th-ranked Bencic took the second we saw racquet smashes, multiple screams, F-Bombs and all of that good stuff that makes watching Serena have to fight and come from the brink so much fun.
Entering the third, I thought for certain Serena would right she ship just as she’s done every other time this year in final sets. Bencic, to her credit, wouldn’t allow it.
The new Swiss Miss broke early for 3-0 lead and then again for 5-1! It was stunning, and stunning how bad Serena was serving. “I think I played really crappy today,” Serena would say.
Serving for the match Bencic understandably wobbled, losing three straight games before nervously closing it out 3-6, 7-5, 7-5.
“I can’t describe the feeling right now,” Bencic said. “I was very overwhelmed from the situation on the court, but I’m just so happy the forehand landed in and she couldn’t reach it anymore.
“It was an incredible feeling. I have no words.”
That’s just Serena’s second loss of the season after Petra Kvitova showed her the exits in this round in Madrid. Kvitova has two Wimbledon titles to go with a huge lefty serve and a big forehand. And while Serena was hindered her horrible serve and the fact she probably won’t lose much sleep over this loss – her real goal is next month in New York – I have to give Bencic credit.
Again, I’m not quite sure what she did, but it worked.
There’s no big weapon per se, but she seems to have a knack for hitting in the right spots, just well enough to get her opponent off balance or out of position. A few times I noticed Bencic not even moving from the corner because she knew – and she was right – that the ball would be coming right back to her. That’s pretty heady stuff for just 18.
“I thought she did really well at everything tonight,” Serena said. “She really reads the ball well, and she really fought well. I knew that about her already, that she never gives up and she fights hard.
“I felt pretty much in control until I lost the match. I always felt I still had an opportunity to stay in there. And obviously I was down and stuff. But I just wasn’t playing well today. It wasn’t my day. Hopefully I can rectify that going into Cincinnati next week and then going into the US Open.
“Hopefully I can have a few more better days.”
While I’m still not that high on her as say a Madison Keys, for her to do what she’s done this week at just the age of 18 – beating Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, Sabine Lisicki and even Eugenie Bouchard – is awfully impressive.
Now she has one more to go.
“Obviously Halep is No.3 in the world and she’s an amazing player,” Bencic said. “But I’m in the final and everything that comes is going to be a bonus.”
ESPN2 has the women’s final from Toronto live at 1pm ET.
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