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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, January 22, 2020

 
Belinda Bencic

Belinda Bencic broke serve seven times stopping Jelena Ostapenko 7-5, 7-5 to reach the Australian Open third round for the third time.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

Grand Slam tennis is the ultimate proving ground.

Contesting her 21st Grand Slam, Belinda Bencic is aiming for major affirmation.

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The sixth-seeded Swiss was a sniper on return converting seven of eight break points in a 7-5, 7-5 conquest of Jelena Ostapenko to reach the Australian Open third round for the third time.

It was Bencic’s third major victory over a former Grand Slam champion. She defeated defending champion Naomi Osaka at the US Open last September and stopped seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams at the 2018 Australian Open.



In a streaky start, Bencic broke out to a 3-0 lead only to see Ostapenko answer with a four-game run.

“This is exactly what I expected, this kind of match," Bencic said. "Yeah it's three games how she's playing really great and then three games a little bit more unforced errors. So I think with her it was totally normal and I was kind of expecting this. Yeah, I'm happy I didn't panic when things weren't going my way."

Ultimately, Bencic’s ball control skills and ability to create sharp angles overcome Ostapenko’s explosiveness and power.

Though she can struggle on serve chasing a toss that tends to stray left, Ostapenko is a dangerous and fearless return and showed it ramming successive returns to break back for 5-all—the sixth break in the first 10 games.

The 45th-ranked Ostapenko is a shot-maker with a sometime warped sense of shot selection.

The Latvian tried an ill-advised drop shot-lob combo and paid for it as Benci angled off a smash. That sequence helped the Swiss score her fourth break of the set for a 6-5 lead.

The seventh-ranked Swiss slashed a crosscourt forehand into the corner taking the 48-minute opener.

The 2017 Roland Garros champ answered breaking twice in a row to open a 4-1 second-set lead.

Tennis Express

Every time Ostapenko made a push with a series of winners, Bencic answered with consistency and creativity.

Bencic bust through six of the last seven games splashing her fourth ace off the sideline to close in one hour, 41 minutes.

For the second straight match, Bencic has avenged a prior loss.

Empowered by her run to the US Open semifinals last summer when she lost to eventual-champion Bianca Andreescu, Bencic has won seven of her last eight major matches.

"I feel like the first-round match was a typical first-round match, a little bit shaky and on and off," Bencic said. "I feel like I played better today. Yeah, just in practice you can feel which level you are and how you're feeling.

"So I feel like I'm getting better and better with matches and, like, with time. So I feel like it's going into the good direction."

Next, the 22-year-old Swiss will play either 28th-seeded Anett Kontaveit or 91st-ranked Sara Sorrbes Tormo for a spot in the fourth round.

 

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