Bencic, Ostapenko advance in Charleston

Charleston, Apr 2 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 4/2/2019 12:52:25 PM IST

Swiss ninth seed Belinda Bencic made a strong start to her claycourt season with a 6-3 6-0 win over qualifier Destanee Aiava to reach the second round of the Charleston Open in South Carolina on Monday.

The Swiss star returned to action following her early exit at the Miami Open. The world number 20 was ready to make the transition to clay as she faced a younger competitor who was making her debut in the tournament.

The 18-year-old Aiava had never faced Bencic before, but was hoping her 33-9 career record on clay was good enough to force an upset. The Swiss star didn’t get more than two victories on the dirt last season and last featured here in 2015.

Bencic blasted out a break to love to begin the match before struggling on her own serve in the second game. Aiava opened up a 40-15 lead before it was erased as Bencic forced deuce. Aiava gained another break point but lost it to the Swiss star who was intent on making a statement on court.

Bencic took the second game and then raced away to a 4-0 lead. Just when it looked like the set was slipping away from Aiava, the Australian teen held it together in the fifth game to get on the board.

Bencic made sure to hold her own serve in the sixth game, forcing Aiava to serve as she tried to extend the set. The Australian managed a quick hold and break to get back on track but Bencic was done letting opportunities slip away and broke back quickly to secure the set in 33 minutes.

The Swiss then started the second set with a hold before forcing errors from the teen’s racquet to take a 2-0 lead. A dominant display from Bencic put her firmly in control at 5-0 as nerves continued to plague the young Australian’s game. Eventually, faced with two match points, Aiava succumbed meekly as Bencic closed out the match in 55 minutes.

“I’m very happy with my match,” said Bencic following her victory. “First rounds are never easy but I was very focused today and tried to play my game from start to finish and I did that well so I’m really happy.”

Up next for the world number 21 at the green-clay event will be American Allie Kiick, who beat Frenchwoman Pauline Parmentier 6-3 6-0.

Former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, a runner-up here in 2017, dropped the opening game of her match but quickly righted the ship and dominated the rest of the way in a 6-1 6-4 win over Swede Johanna Larsson.

Latvian Ostapenko had seven double faults in the match but rounded into form as the match wore on before clinching the win by firing down an ace.

She will next face American Shelby Rogers, who was a 6-4 6-2 winner over Russia’s Evgeniya Rodina in her first match back after being sidelined for more than a year by a knee injury.

Such was her relief at being fit and back on court again, Rogers succumbed to tears after winning the opening set.

“It’s kind of embarrassing to be honest,” the 26-year-old Charleston native told reporters.

“It was a great moment, I enjoyed every second of it — even when I got broken. That’s part of it. It’s all those feelings I missed so much. The adrenaline, the nerves, the excitement, everything. You can’t recreate that outside of the arena.”


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