Belinda’s Breakthrough: Bencic Having Banner Run

A Swiss teenager who tries to “outsmart” her opponents? Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Belinda Bencic may not be the second coming of Martina Hingis, the former world No. 1 from Switzerland, but the 17-year-old has been channeling the original Swiss Miss this week at the Volvo Car Open, where the youngest player in the draw has marched her way into the semifinals – as a qualifier.

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Friday she continued her hot streak in Charleston, winning her sixth match in seven days, this the biggest of her career: a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory over No. 3 Sara Errani, the world’s 11th-ranked player.

“I didn’t see the [results] coming, but I was hoping for them,” Bencic said of her success here, smiling after her win. “I was believing in [myself] that someday they will come and I’m just really happy they came this week.”

Bencic plays Jana Cepelova in the second semifinal after 1 pm on Saturday.

The Cup is no stranger to Swiss success: Hingis won here twice in 1997 and 1999 while former top 10 player Patty Schnyder was a finalist in both 2002 and 2006. 

“I was following [Hingis and Schnyder] and also I followed this tournament,” Bencic said. “So I knew they had great success here, and I’m very happy that I can do also.”

The world No. 140 is assured to move inside the top 100 with her success in Charleston, some 50 spots even if she loses Saturday in the semifinals. She could leap as high as the top 60 by winning the tournament on Sunday.

While Bencic’s success on the pro level is fresh, the teen has been on the radar of the sport’s insiders for several years. She works off and on with Hingis’ mother and former coach, Melanie Molitor, and was French Open and Wimbledon junior champion less than a year ago.

The lanky player with an all-court game had just three WTA wins to her name coming into this week, but has registered four in the main draw here (after her two in qualifying). A year ago she was ranked No. 496 and lost to a player ranked outside the top 1,000 at a tournament whose total prize money was $50,000.

Friday she beat a former world No. 5 who was a French Open finalist.

Bencic will earn over $30,000 this week (at least) and much more than that should she make the final or win the tournament. But the perspective of this youngster is that doesn’t matter: she just wants a piece of history.

“I will just enjoy the match and I have nothing to lose in the semifinals tomorrow,” Bencic said. “I’m just trying my best.”