Bencic, proud but still ambitious “Sometimes I pinch myself”

The Swiss says she still enjoys it when she is introduced as the Olympic champion

Belinda Bencic US Open 2023 Zuma / Panoramic

The relentless treadmill of the tennis Tours is such that players rarely have a chance to take a breather, look back and see just how far they have come.

Belinda Bencic has been going at it on the WTA Tour for the best part of a decade now. In that time, she’s reached a Grand Slam semi-final, been ultra-consistent and won seven titles, including the big one, the Olympic gold medal in 2021.

Bencic: “I’m much older, much more mature”

It’s amazing to think that Bencic is still 26. She came on the scene in 2014 and has been ever-present since. She reached the third round at the US Open on Wednesday with a 6-3, 6-3 win over British qualifier Lily Mayazaki and now Lin Zhu of China, who upset Victoria Azarenka.

A semi-finalist in 2019, the draw could yet open up for Bencic to make another run. Nine years after making the quarter-finals on her debut, Bencic says she’s a better player now, for many reasons.

Belinda Bencic US Open - Imago / Panoramic
Belinda Bencic US Open – Imago / Panoramic

“I’m much older, much more mature,” she said. “Then I was fresh from juniors, coming here, very excited to be here, very fresh. I was just playing out of my mind. I had nothing to lose.

“I think I’m a better player now for sure, but I’m really proud of how far I’ve come. I think it’s really good to see like the career I’ve made because when I was 17, of course, in that moment, you think you have to use every chance because you never know if you’re going to have a great career or if you just not going to make it like really consistently on the tour.

“So I’m really happy like with how consistent I am every year, you know, I’m showing good results. I’ve had some good wins and I have more things to come, hopefully.”

Playing on the biggest stages still surreal

There are times when Bencic still has to pinch herself that she’s playing this sport on the biggest stages around the world. As a junior, that was not surprising, but even now, she sometimes finds herself thinking how lucky she is.

“Arthur Ashe Stadium was just the most impressive thing ever. I played (and beat) Jelena Jankovic in Arthur Ashe Stadium. I was so happy to be there because you always see who’s on TV playing there. It was like a surreal moment.

“Also, like this year, I played the second time on Centre Court at Wimbledon and I was just there, sometimes I was like, Oh my God, pinching, it’s so amazing. I can play on Centre Court, playing the number one in the world (Iga Swiatek).

“There was a standing ovation after some of the rallies we had, and sometimes it’s like it’s not even win or lose. It’s just like incredible seeing that. Sometimes you don’t really think about it. You don’t appreciate how far you’ve come. You always want more and more and more, but sometimes you have to just like, think this has been nice.”

Belinda Bencic - (c) AI / Reuters / Panoramic
Belinda Bencic – (c) AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Bencic on winning Olympic gold

Her biggest title, of course, came at the Olympics in 2021 when she won the gold medal in the singles in Tokyo. On the biggest stage, playing for her country, she held her nerve and played her very best tennis.

Does she sneak a look at the gold medal every now and again? “Yeah, I put my timer every two hours,” she joked. “No, I mean, from time to time when I’m home, I like to look at it. Of course, like when you’re at a tournament, you don’t think about, oh, like I won the Olympics.

“Of course you’re really proud of it, but it’s in the past. You always work towards more and more and more. But sometimes it is nice, like, to take a step back and look at the pictures and then think about the experiences and and kind of look at the medal. So maybe after my career I’ll doing more of often.”

Bencic said the best moments come when she is introduced as Olympic champion when coming out onto court, although she does have one minor complaint.

“That is nice,” she said. “I enjoy that. It’s funny, they kind of forget the doubles, you know? It’s always like Olympic gold medallist, but I’m like, no, I have silver, too.”

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