Semifinal preview: Championship weekend set to crown new Charleston winner
Tennis – as we all know – is a sport of the slimmest of margins.
Olympic champion Belinda Bencic reminded us of that this week, when in the first round against China’s Wang Xiyu she was just three points from exiting the Credit One Charleston Open.
Saturday she plays for a spot in the championship match.
Bencic, the 25-year-old from Switzerland, is into the semifinals here eight years after she first made a run into the final four as a teenage qualifier ranked No. 140 in the world.
She would lose that match by another slim margin: A third-set tiebreak.
“I remember I lost and I just went to the club house and they had these cookies,” Bencic said Friday, cracking into a smile. “And I just took a cookie and put Nutella on it and ate it all. That’s what we do when we lose.”
Bencic gets another shot at the semis, this time as the higher-ranked and more experienced player when she takes on unseeded Ekaterina Alexandrova, who has been on a run of form after coming to Charleston with “no expectations” on a surface she says is her least favorite.
In the other semifinal it’s American Amanda Anisimova taking on Ons Jabeur, the No. 4 seed who is the highest ranked player remaining in the field.
The Tunisian has made history for her country with her rise up the rankings, and this weekend looks to win the biggest title of her career.
While Bencic and Alexandrova are 2-2 head-to-head, Anisimova and Jabeur are meeting for the first time. It’s also a first for the American on home soil: She’s never been this far at a U.S. event.
“It’s funny because I always feel comfortable at American tournaments,” the 20-year-old reflected. “I really enjoy playing at home. It’s amazing playing in front of this crowd in Charleston. Hopefully I can go further.”
But Jabeur is one of the trickiest players on tour, her all-court game a test for the big-hitting style of Anisimova.
“I know how Ons plays,” Anisimova said. “I’ll just be going in trying to play my game, but also knowing what’s going to be coming from the other side.”
While Jabeur will be on the other side of the net, it’s Anisimova dog, Miley, who has offered a calming presence – from the sideline. The pup sits patiently while Amanda plays, blissfully unaware her owner is one of the best players on the planet.
“When I bring her to tournaments, it serves as a calmness,” Anisimova said. “She stays calm and composed the entire match. She’s just sleeping.”
This is not a weekend to sleep on, however: We’re about to get a new champion in Charleston. So – who’s it going to be?