Sixth seed Belinda Bencic produced a battling performance to see off long-time rival Jelena Ostapenko 7-5 7-5 to make the third round of the Australian Open.
The two have duelled on the tour since their earliest days as two of Europe’s most promising junior talents, first playing some 12 years ago when both were just 10. However this latest encounter was tinged with an extra poignance as 22-year-old Ostapenko tragically lost her father less than a fortnight ago, only deciding to even compete in Melbourne on the eve of the event.
Given that context, Ostapenko’s performance on Margaret Court Arena was remarkable. She endured an underwhelming 2019 on court, meaning she is unseeded this year, but the ability which took her to a surprise French Open title three years ago is very much present.
The match played out as a typical cat and mouse battle between Ostapenko’s powerful tennis which was once dubbed ‘See ball, hit winner’, and the tactical awareness and intelligent serving of Bencic. While Ostapenko remained outwardly calm and composed throughout, it was the Swiss player who as ever, seemed the most angst-filled player on court.