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Gutsy Bencic digs deep to see off Ostapenko

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.

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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.

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23 Jan 20
Belinda Bencic vs. Jelena Ostapenko - Match Highlights (R2) | Australian Open 2020

Bencic puts on a show against Ostapenko

Video

Even after winning a tight opening set, Bencic continued to chunner away at her box, chastising herself for every error and missed opportunity, and flinging her hands in the air as Ostapenko winners flew by.

“It's really difficult (against her),” Bencic said afterwards.

“You can't get too frustrated, and you have to accept that she's gonna play amazing at times and even if you kind of deserve to win the point, she's just gonna hit an amazing winner. Sometimes it’s a little bit unfair.”

This seemed to inspire the Latvian who began stringing together winners with increasing regularity as the second set wore on, and when she established a 5-2 lead, a decider seemed inevitable.

Before the tournament began, Bencic poked fun at her sometimes erratic serving by announcing she will donate to the Bushfire Relief for each double fault she serves down under. But few could fault her serving today, which repeatedly dug her out of trouble, while Ostapenko delivered the more costly doubles. The first handed Bencic the break back as she served for the second set at 5-3, while a second two games later gave the grateful Swiss a chance to serve for the match.

“I'm happy I didn't panic when things weren't going my way,” said a relieved Bencic.

“It's kind of a balance between not giving her my unforced errors, but also putting pressure on her. I didn't do that too well until 2-5, and then I started to get a little bit more loose. I think the strength of my game is to kind of find solutions on the court, and try to beat my opponent just with what I have on a given day.

“Obviously I know I'm not the biggest power player or best serve or best forehand, but I feel like I have an all-around game and I know how to play every shot. I just try to kind of outplay my opponents.”

Bencic puts on a show against Ostapenko

Video