| By Brian Coleman

 

Five years after reaching the US Open quarterfinals as a 17-year-old, Switzerland's Belinda Bencic has made her way back into the final eight. 

The 13th seed from Switzerland knocked off the tournament's top-seed and defending champion Naomi Osaka inside Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday afternoon, hitting 29 winners en route to a 7-5, 6-4 victory.

“I just came with the same mentality like I played her before and just really focused on the game and not about the hype or the occasion, the stadium and the round,” Bencic said afterwards.

Bencic came into the clash having defeated Osaka in their last three encounters, and brought that same winning formula to the court on Monday. She broke Osaka in her opening service game, and while Osaka was able to get the set back on serve, Bencic would break one more time for 6-5 and proceeded to serve out the remainder of the set.

She would get the break she needed in the second set after hitting a backhand smash past Osaka who had approached the net to set up the break point. Osaka then double-faulted, and it was all the opening that the Swiss needed. 

Bencic dominated on her serve in the second, winning 100 percent of the points on her first serve and 20 of her 24 total service points in the set. That provided Osaka with no window to get back into the match and allowed Bencic to serve out the match and secure one of the eight remaining singles spots at the 2019 US Open. 

 

Now 22-years-old, Bencic is back into the quarterfinals of the year’s final major for the first time since 2014 when she burst onto the scene as a teenager.

“Yeah, it’s been a long way since then, for sure,” said Bencic. “People always think I’m a little bit older than I actually am, because I’ve been here since 16, 17. I think definitely it was a good time. I learned so many things. I think it was--everyone expected to go just up. That’s not how tennis goes. I think all true athletes have to overcome obstacles, injuries, just tough times. I think it made me a stronger person, and a better player. 

I hope it’s going to be like this.”

It’s been a long road back to the top for Bencic. After her run to the US Open and subsequent success that saw her ascend to as high as seventh in the world rankings, injuries derailed her progress and, after having wrist surgery in 2017, she would tumble outside the Top 300. 

But she stuck with the process and continued to work her way back, a major milestone in that return was a title in Dubai earlier this year, her first Premier-level title since 2015, where she ousted four Top 10 players on her way to the title. 

“There were times when you’re injured you ever wonder if you can play at this level again,” Bencic admitted. “Then I also believed if I’m going to get back and healthy, I can play on this level, because I proved it so many times. It was just about being consistent and if it was going to be enough. I think it helps when the belief is there, when you know you can be top 10. So when you have been there, you know that your way is working. So I think that helped me a lot through these injuries.”

Bencic aims to continue her climb when she takes on 23rd seed Donna Vekic for a spot in the semifinals in Flushing. Vekic came back from a set down to beat 26th seed Julia Goerges 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-3 in her fourth-round match on Monday.

 

Brian Coleman

 Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at brianc@usptennis.com