Belinda Bencic on Charleston title: This ‘brings me more freedom’

Belinda Bencic on Charleston title: This ‘brings me more freedom’

Belinda Bencic’s secret to her title lies… in a coloring book? And the new champion gives advice to runner-up Ons Jabeur.

On court this week in Charleston, Belinda Bencic was painting the lines. Off of it? She was coloring inside of them.

While the Olympic champion was working her way towards a sixth career title – and first on clay – at the 2022 Credit One Charleston Open, she relaxed off of it with a set of colored pencils and Mandala coloring pages – a habit she says helps her relax.

“My coloring form is always on point. I never go out of the lines,” a smiling Bencic said after her semifinal win on Saturday. “I’m a perfectionist. So everything has to be good.”

It was a glimpse into the mindset of a 25-year-old who had broken through in Charleston eight years ago at age 17 as next-big-thing chatter built up around her when she made the semifinals.

Then came the reality of the depth of women’s tennis. Not to mention injuries and time away from tour.

But the last nine months Bencic has found another level of tennis within herself: She won the Olympic singles title in August at Tokyo 2020 (in 2021). On Sunday she dug deep again, capturing the sixth title and opening her eyes to new capabilities: Success on clay.

“For me this is just really a great way to show myself that I can do it on every surface when I play my game and when I am doing the right things,” said Bencic, who now has titles on clay, hard courts and grass.

“I said [this] after the Olympics, for me it’s not pressure, but it’s really something that just flips and kind of brings me more freedom, I would say. So to show that I can do it in Olympics and that I can do it here on the clay, it’s like a big challenge that I’ve overcome in myself, and it helps me going forward.”

Going forward, Bencic will hop up to No. 13 in the world from 21, her career high being world No. 4. While she is yet to reach a Grand Slam final, a title in Charleston not only moves her back closer to the top 10, but also gives her that sort of aforementioned belief that can prove most powerful at the big events.

“It does a lot for my confidence,” she said, noting that she made the Miami semifinals just last week. “I didn’t expect this kind of result. I just wanted to do the best I can, and I was really focusing on my game and what I had to do, like in the practice and always doing the right things.”

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She continued: “I kind of broke this bad momentum and I was working hard and just trying to change it. I feel like this is like the tournament that you break through and then it goes like the right way. So I’m happy about it.”

Bencic won on a special week: Fifty years of women’s professional tennis was being celebrated in South Carolina, with legends like Rosie Casals, Tracy Austin and Arantxa Sanchez in attendance for championship weekend.

Casals presented Bencic the winner’s trophy on Sunday, and Belinda became the first Swiss player to capture the title here since Martina Hingis in 1999.

The history is not lost on her.

(L-R) Former champions Sabine Lisicki, Jelena Jankovic, Mary Pierce, Arantxa Sanchez, Tracy Austin and Rosie Casals witnessed part of Bencic’s run to history. (Christ Smith/Charleston Tennis LLC)

“It means a lot, and especially this is the 50th anniversary for [the event], and it makes me so happy that I am among those names, and especially when I saw all the former champions from Charleston, they came here, and they celebrated this tournament. It means a lot.”

While Krispy Kreme and Chipotle are her celebratory “cheat meals” before she leaves the U.S. on Monday night for Europe and the spring clay swing, Bencic understood the pain that her friend and colleague – runner-up Ons Jabeurwas going through, having lost the most competitive final in seven years in Charleston.

Bencic feels as though she’s been there.

“I just felt like I wanted to let her know that she is doing everything she can to win this kind of title,” Bencic shared. “I think this is the most important thing. Sometimes the outcome is out of your control… there’s nothing you can do about it. Sometimes it’s meant to be one way.”

“I think Ons, she showed incredible fight and in every match she tries to do the best,” Bencic added. “I feel like she does everything right to make her career the best as possible. And I feel like if you keep doing that, then it will reward you, sooner or later.”

“Sometimes you lose, but then you feel later it’s good for something.”

What Bencic’s own experiences were good for Sunday was a memorable title, etching her name into history.

Her named penned into the history books, partly due to the coloring books that kept her mind clear away from the court.

And now champion on it in Charleston.

Belinda Bencic Charleston Ons Jabeur