Belinda Bencic beat No.5 seed Karolina Pliskova 6-3 4-6 6-3 to reach the BNP Paribas Open semifinals, ensuring her return to the top 20 in the rankings.
Bencic was pushed to three sets on Thursday for the first time in four matches at this tournament; she was coming off a straight-set upset of defending champion and top-ranked Naomi Osaka in the fourth round.
Bencic next plays No.8 seed Angelique Kerber, who overcame Venus Williams in a meeting between former world No.1s and multiple Grand Slam champions.
Kerber served for the opening set only for Williams to break back and level scores at 5-5, but once the German got through the tiebreak, she ran away with a 7-6(3) 6-3 win.
.@AngeliqueKerber downs Venus Williams, 7-6(3), 6-3!
— WTA (@WTA) March 15, 2019
“To play against Venus, it’s always tough. I know this. I was expecting a tough match,” Kerber said. “I’m happy that I won the first set and then could move in and play a little bit better (in the second).
“It will be completely different match tomorrow. Bencic is playing really flat and she’s going for it. She has a lot of confidence, especially from the last weeks. It will be not an easy match. It will be a battle.
“But I’m looking forward (to it). This is the matches I’m always looking forward to have, especially in big tournaments, semis. And I know that I have to play also aggressive and go for it tomorrow.”
Bencic, meanwhile, improved to 18-3 this year, and has won 12 straight matches – half of those over top-10 opponents. Four of those top-10 wins came when she won her third career title at Dubai last month, her first WTA trophy since 2015.
Belinda Bencic has won 10 of her last 13 matches vs. Top 5 opponents.
She has now won her last 6 meetings against Top 10 opponents, 4 of which came vs. Top 5 players:
d. Osaka (IW)
d. Halep (Dubai)
d. Kvitova (Dubai)
d. Pliskova (IW)
Will return to the Top 20 on Monday.
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) March 14, 2019
The 22-year-old missed five months in 2017 after wrist surgery, and has also battled a back injury.
“It feels amazing,” said Bencic. “The pressure is not on me against top 10 players; they have the pressure, so I can just play. I just tried my best because I never try to think about the victory. I’m really relieved, surprised and happy.”
Bencic reached a career-high ranking of No.7 in February 2016, before plummeting as low as No.318 in September 2017 on account of her injury struggles.
The Swiss star, who combined with Roger Federer in January to win the Hopman Cup, said she wanted to keep riding her wave of momentum.
“I’m very confident. I said yesterday, the less I think on the court the better it is. When you’re confident, you can really just trust your instincts and you don’t have to think about it at all,” Bencic said.
“I’m definitely playing how I feel it, and it’s going well so I’m not planning on changing that.”
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