Bencic wins in tennis' long-awaited return to Adelaide

  • David Cox

Tour-level tennis has returned to Adelaide for the first time in 12 years with the brand new Adelaide International, taking place this week at the revamped Memorial Drive Tennis Centre.

With the South Australian government spending $10 million on a sparkling new fibreglass roof over Centre Court, the city gets to play host to international tennis once more, having previously held a professional tournament between 1988 and 2008.

Top two seeds Ash Barty and Simona Halep add a sprinkling of stardust to the women’s draw, and the duo will command plenty of attention when they get their campaigns underway later in the week after receiving first round byes. 

“I poked my head out to see Centre Court this morning and it looks incredible,” said a visibly excited Barty in her pre-tournament press conference. 

Fourth seed Belinda Bencic, a late wildcard entry to Adelaide, will be hoping to challenge the top two seeds.

“I just wanted to get matches in. I actually really regretted the mistake of not (originally) entering this tournament.”
Belinda Bencic

The Swiss star was in action on Monday afternoon, battling her way into the last 16 with an scratchy 6-4 6-4 win over close friend Daria Kasatkina.

“I just wanted to get matches in,” said Bencic. “I actually really regretted the mistake of not (originally) entering this tournament.”

With tempers flaring on both sides of the net amid the early afternoon heat, it was Bencic who settled just enough to take her chances at the end of each set. However, things were far from plain sailing for the world No.7, who had lost two of her three previous matches against the wily Kasatkina. 

The Russian led by a break in both sets as Bencic struggled to click her usually free-flowing game into top gear. However, Kasatkina’s lack of composure when ahead repeatedly allowed Bencic back into the match.

As the match progressed the Swiss was increasingly able to attack her opponent’s weak second serves. 

“This match was very tough against Dasha,” Bencic said. “She has a very unique game which doesn’t really match mine so I had to work a lot.

"Playing a friend is always difficult but I think we are professional enough to keep it real on the court and off the court we are great again.”

Elsewhere in the draw, local favourite Alja Tomljanovic set up a second-round clash with Halep after dispatching qualifier Yulia Putintseva 7-6(4) 6-2.

“I'm like, Whoa, okay, Halep," laughed Tomljanovic. "But I'm up for the challenge. You want to play these matches, play against the top players. Yeah, what a better way than to do it here in Adelaide?"

In the men’s event, fast rising Canadian teenager Félix Auger-Aliassime will be favourite for the title.

However Britain’s Dan Evans could prove to be a dark horse after an impressive showing during last week’s ATP Cup during which he won all three of his singles matches.

Evans moved safely into round two in Adelaide with a 6-2 6-4 win over Juan Ignacio Londero on Monday and will next play Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik, who upset fifth seed Taylor Fritz 6-4 7-6(4) on Sunday.