Belinda Bencic was champion of the north but not the way she expected. A dramatic final with Simona Halep went through two and half agonizing sets before the Romanian had to call out of the match handing the title to the 18 year old who won 7-6(5), 6-7(4) 3-0 on centre court at the Aviva Tennis Centre at York University. It was her second title of the season and wouldn’t be the last with so much success over the week that led to this moment.
This was a big moment for the 18 year old from Switzerland as she competed for her second WTA title of the season. Bencic made the impossible possible as she held back Serena Williams in three sets to get into the Canadian Masters final against the Romanian she has only met once. Their match at Wimbledon last year ended in straight sets with Halep allowing the teen a surge in the first before dominating her in the second.
It would be a different scenario this time around as Bencic had been on a strong run through the tournament dropping some of the best players in the business. With Williams taking the cake, the bonus in defeating Halep would be the best highlight of her career making her a new force in the sport.
The two ladies cut their warm ups short getting the match started with Halep on the serve. Bencic made work of the break to win the opening game and make something of her opening service to the Romanian. She would be unable to make a break on the number three player answering well on the serve of the Swiss to even up. The trade of wins went on from there with both girls still breaking the other’s serve through five games with the Swiss holding the score.
She made the first successful hold in the match allowing Halep a single point before opening the gap. The pace of the set went into full reverse as the Romanian responded in Game Seven with a hold on serve as well. Bencic’s lead disappeared, as she couldn’t hold on deuce giving Halep the much-needed game making her push forward.
She opened u a 40-0 lead on Bencic in Game Nine until the teen closed in to fight for the hold and possible chance for the set win. Instead it went to five breaks on deuce where Halep held on to take the win and play for it first. During the break, Bencic’s father and coach came out to try and calm his daughter down in order to get her back into it. While on serve she blasted to a 40-0 lead until her emotions got the best of her. She allowed Halep two games before regaining the composure and hold serve to force the set into more games.
The Romanian added more pressure on Bencic taking the lead once more to play for the set a second time. After a brief medical timeout to treat her leg, Halep failed to close the teen out, giving her a big win that forced a tiebreaker. Halep had a 4-1 lead at one point, but the unforced errors for the Swiss back into it threatening to steal control back.
On a shot away from the Romanian, Bencic landed a clean ball on court to open at 5-4. Bencic’s forehand moved too quick tying the tiebreaker but when she picked up a chance on set point, Bencic watched as Halep made a last ditch effort for the return only to see it land into the net giving the teen a huge hold on the title. It took over an hour and nine minutes to finish the opening set and it would most likely not be the last as each had a stake in winning on centre court. Though the battle was tight, neither one was playing their best game with both players tallied 53 unforced errors combined.
Luck continued to run on the side of Bencic as she took a 2-0 lead into the second set. Double faults ruined the teen’s chance to open to a 3-0 that would have mostly likely been the final nail in the coffin. Instead she handed Halep a much-needed win that ended her opponents three game-winning streak.
She added another win but was still a game down of Bencic who continued to hold the score in her favor. During a break, the Romanian was checked for possible overheating conditions, as the temperatures were hot in Toronto as well as the heat coming off the hard court being in the triple digits.
Despite the weather, Bencic was on fire herself holding service through Game Seven. The teen began to collapse racking up another pair of double faults putting Halep back in contention on deuce. Halep won the break point firing a sliding shot away from Bencic to sit one game down.
The pressure sat with her after Game Eight where the 18 year old earned a huge break on Halep to serve for the championship in the ninth. She didn’t get the response from the Romanian that she wanted giving her the triple break point chance that ended with a shot wide to put Halep closer to push the set to its limit once more.
She served to the Swiss star who still had her opportunity to win the title in straight sets. Bencic blew the chance as Halep, despite feeling nauseous fought back to push the game into its extension. Halep got the best of her opponent who showed signs of frustration that caused her to lose her cool and the critical game to play out the match. Instead it would be the Romanian with her countrymen yelling and screaming her on to tie the match.
Bencic made every effort to hold her opponent back while leading with a break. She was trying to close it out putting every shot to the test that would make or break Halep. In the end it did the trick on a short rally where the set went into a tiebreak that would determine the direction of the match.
The break was tight with the Romanian leading the way at 3-2. She took another step out front in her only statement to extend the match. Both players showed that the heat was playing a tremendous factor in their performance. It didn’t show on the racket of Halep as she widened the gap on Bencic leading 5-2.
Halep sat on set point but her attempts to close it out were difficult. Bencic made it 6-4 knocking close for an overtake but on another serve, she took control and shut the door on the 18 year old sending the match into a third set. The two added another hour and eight minutes to the dramatic battle that was occurring.
During the break, Bencic lost her cool with the umpire asking how many times her adversary can have the trainer out. Though her point was strong it would come down to four possible endings: Bencic wins, Halep wins, either player retires.
The two continued to play in the third set but the leverage was heavy in favor of Bencic who took an early 2-0 lead in the set. She added another with a fight on deuce to take a commanding hold of the set halfway to victory. In a huge disappointment to Halep and her fans, the 2 hour and 30 minute match came to an end as the 23 year old was forced to quit, as her body would not allow her to continue.
The news caught Bencic by surprise but she slowly took it all in stride becoming the youngest winner of the tournament since Ana Ivanovic in 2006. “The win feels amazing,” Bencic told CBC Sports after the match. “I’m really sorry it had to end like this. I’m sorry for Simona. I hope she will be fine in the next tournament, but for me it’s been an incredible week I cannot believe it. I think a win is a win and I had to fight very hard today.”
“Simona brings a lot of balls back so it’s very difficult to play against her and I’m so happy that I could turn it around in the first set and it was just a mental battle,” Bencic said. When asked if she was going to celebrate the answer was more than obvious but conservative as well. “I have to be in Cincinnati to face Angelique Kerber on Tuesday so I will find the time to enjoy it.”