Photo: Susan MullaneITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti and Belinda Bencic (SUI)
Belinda Bencic has long been compared to Martina Hingis – for a number of reasons – and on Saturday the 16-year-old emulated one of the former world No 1's achievements when she backed up her French Open triumph by winning Wimbledon.
The Swiss, coached by Hingis's mother, Melanie Molitor, recovered to beat American Taylor Townsend 46, 61, 64 in a high-quality final that offered fans on Court No 1 a good contrast in styles.
Bencic is the first girl to do the Paris-Wimbledon double since Amelie Mauresmo of France in 1996, an achievement Hingis herself managed two years before that.
“I can't stop smiling,” Bencic said. “It's amazing. I didn't realise it yet. It was a really tough match. The first set was not so good from my side but she played amazing from the beginning. And then in the end I could come back. In the third set it was about holding serves and who has better nerves.”
Bencic was just four years old when her father contacted Molitor to see if she could coach his daughter, knowing she might have some free time because Hingis had picked up an injury at the time. It was a partnership that paid off perfectly as Bencic added Wimbledon to her Paris crown.
Former junior No 1 and former Australian Open champion Townsend began brilliantly, serve and volleying, mixing her game up with some nice slices and generally keeping Bencic off balance as she surged to a 40 lead. The sixth game lasted 17 minutes as Townsend held on but the Swiss was beginning to get herself into the match.
Bencic fought back to 4-5 and had a break point to get back on terms, only for Townsend to hold on and take the set. But the top seed was growing in confidence and roared through the second. The third became a dog-fight but Bencic's court-craft, intelligence and mental strength saw her through.
"I don't know how I turned it round,”she said. “Ijust tried to stay in the match and was trying to make my serve better, because in the beginning it was not really good. Then in the end, when I served for the match, I don't know what happened, but it was an amazing game. I'm really proud of that.”
"The victory took Bencic's winning streak to 35 matches but Townsend played her part in one of the best finals in recent years. “Everything is difficult when you play her,” Bencic said. “It's really tough to play against her every time. I played now her three times. None of the matches was easy.
"I think she has a great serve. It was really hard for me to return good. And her forehand is amazing, so I just try to, like, push to her backhand. At the net I think she won every point.”
Bencic said she would play in the junior event at the US Open before deciding whether to focus on the WTA Tour but said she was most looking forward to celebrating at the Champions Dinner on Sunday night.
“I was really hoping before the tournament that I would get there, either with singles or doubles.”she said. “ just took the dress.”
The boys' final will be between Hyeon Chung of Korea and Italy's Gianluigi Quinzi on Sunday.