Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai
Bencic's smile beams during the media day interviews in Dubai
Reigning champion Belinda Bencic is determined to “find her groove” once again to rule the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
The 22-year-old used her dramatic and exhilarating title run last February to ignite a highly successful 2019, propelling her up to a career-high world No.5 ranking.
The Swiss opens her title defence against world No.33 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, back on the courts of a significant trophy lift.
“I don’t really get why all of the people think that success and then after playing it’s pressure. For me, it’s not. It’s a privilege,” insisted the No.4 seed. “I won here last year, so I can only play great again here. That’s how I see it. I think it’s all about the mentality.”
That mentality helped Bencic being hailed WTA Comeback Player of the Year in 2019. Rewind to Dubai last year and the Swiss arrived without winning a tour-level title in four seasons.
Bencic, then ranked at 45, clicked into devastating form, saving six match points against Aryna Sabalenka, before navigating past Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and Petra Kvitova to hold aloft the magnificent trophy
“Yeah I just remember playing all tight matches, having to always turn it around, sometimes I was match points down, another I was 3-5 down in the third. Every match was really tight, very interesting for people to watch,” reflected Bencic, recalling toppling four Top-10 opponents back-to-back to be called Dubai champion.
“It was a great feeling, a great and emotional week for me. Every tournament you can play well or even win at becomes one of your favourites.”
The Swiss cherishes the memories of 2019 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, but maintains she is forward thinking.
“Definitely have to approach it as another week, another tournament. There is nothing I can gain from winning last year to help me win this year. I just have to start from zero and try and find my best again,” continued the world No.5, who has proven a couple of campaigns blighted by a multitude of injuries have been banished.
“I feel pretty much the same as last year here. Tennis players are always in the moment. Those tough times always help me to get better. I learned a lot from those years, it made me appreciate the good times a lot more,” added Bencic, reaching the US Open and WTA Finals last four in 2019. “I appreciate playing tennis a lot more. I’m really happy every time I step on court.”
First up for Bencic is a tricky encounter with Pavlyuchenkova, with the Swiss prevailing in their past three matches.
“If you look across the qualies draw and the main draw it is full of great players from the start, everyone has a tough draw here,” she added, cautious of looking beyond the Russian.
“Obviously it would mean the world to me (to win again) like other tournaments, but I’m really focusing on round to round and we’ll see how far I go.”
We tennisplayers are lucky. We have a new chance every week ➡️#thisway pic.twitter.com/cOYJn3bPNf
— Belinda Bencic (@BelindaBencic) January 26, 2020
Dubai was Bencic’s springboard for success in 2019 and the fourth seed hopes to replicate a similar season.
“Yeah, I definitely want to keep on going that way, to keep up that level,” continued the Swiss, eager to maintain her spot in the Top 10, whilst eyeing podium glory at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“I feel my game is great right now, I’m still trying to find that groove again, I think consistency is the key for me and my ranking. I’ll try everything to keep my ranking high and play well in the main tournaments.
“Hopefully this week in Dubai can start me up again.”