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Belinda Bencic showing Olympic form at last with Charleston victory

After a battle with COVID and other struggles, Belinda Bencic is now hitting her form at the right time.

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Opinion – James Spencer (Twitter – @jspencer28)

Last summer when Belinda Bencic won Olympic gold in Tokyo, the world of tennis expected big things from the Swiss.

However, things went the opposite way as Bencic was only able to reach a string of quarter-finals until March this year.

A semi-final run at the Miami Masters proved to be the catalyst for Bencic to triumph at the Charleston Open last weekend.

Impressive wins over hotshot teenager Linda Fruhvirtova, Madison Keys, world number three Paula Badosa and Ons Jabeur, have shot the 25-year-old back to stardom.

A six-match unbeaten run is now in the making, and gives the gold medallist hope for bigger things to come.

To win one of the first clay-court tournaments on the WTA calendar will give Bencic a lot of confidence, as well as the sheer calibre of the players she beat that week in South Carolina.

Now the challenge is to back this up at the Madrid Open at the end of the month, and the Italian Open, which is also still to come.

With the shock retirement of Ash Barty last month, there is now a vaccum at the top of the women’s game.

This seems to have been taken by the 20-year-old Pole Iga Świątek.

However, someone must be waiting in the wings to strike, if the new world number one slips up.

Could that person be Bencic?

It could be possible, considering Świątek’s latest dominance appears to be on hard-courts, after her successes at Indian Wells and Miami.

Adapting to clay can often take time, and is a challenge for the best of players.

Bencic has made a strong start on the surface and has every chance of consolidating the win at the premier European events.

The clay-court stretch is so short that Świątek doesn’t have long to find her groove on it.

This puts the French Open up for grabs, and Bencic will be licking her lips that this could be a real genuine chance to win her first Grand Slam title.

With just over a month to go till the second Major of the year, building up steam could be the key for the Swiss to achieve success.

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Danil Medvedev saves a set point to beat Nuno Borges in Halle

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Danil Medvedev started his grass campaign with a 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 win over Portugal’s Nuno Borges in 1 hour and 31 minutes at the Terra Wortmann Open Open in Halle. Medvedev is still chasing his first title this season. 

Borges converted his third break point in the second game of the first set. Medvedev broke straight back in the third game and held serve at 15 in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Borges earned a set point at 6-5 in the first set, when Medvedev hit a double fault long. Medvedev hit a first serve out wide to save the set point. 

Both players went on serve en route to the tie-break. Medvedev raced out to a 4-0 lead with two mini-breaks. Borges pulled one of the two mini-breaks back for 2-5. Medvedev earned his third mini-break to take a 6-2 lead. Borges saved two set points for 4-6, but Medvedev sealed the tie-break 7-4 on his third chance. The second set went on serve until the 10thgame, when Medvedev broke serve on his second match point. 

Medvedev won five more points than Borges, but he saved five of the six break points he faced. 

Medvedev has a win-loss record of 22-1 against players outside of the top 20. 

Medvedev set up a second round match against Chinese number 1 Zhang Zhizhen, who battled past Sebastian Ofner 7-6 (10-8) 6-7 (3-7) 6-4. Medvedev will play his first head-to-head match against Zhang Zhizhen. 

Lorenzo Sonego won 85 % of his first serve points in his 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-5) win over Miomir Kecmanovic. 

Sonego saved the only break point of the first set in the 11th game. Both players went on serve until the tie-break. Sonego raced out to a 4-1 lead. Kecmanovic pulled back on serve to draw level to 4-4. Sonego earned a first set point at 6-5, but Kecmanovic saved it. Sonego sealed the first set 7-5 on his second set point. 

Sonego earned a break point in the first game of the second set, but Kecmanovic saved it. The Serbian player fended off another break point in the ninth game. Sonego went down 2-5 in the tie-break, but he won five consecutive points to win the second set. 

Sonego will face the winner of the German clash between this year’s Roland Garros finalist Alexander Zverev and world number 471 Oscar Otte. 

Hubert Hurkacz beat Flavio Cobolli 7-5 7-6 (7-5). The first set went on serve until the sixth game, when Hurkacz earned the first break to take a 4-2 lead. Cobolli broke straight back in the seventh game and draw level at 15 to draw level to 4-4. Cobolli saved a set point in the 10th game, but Hurkacz sealed the first set with a break in the 10th game. The second set went on serve until the 12th game when Cobolli saved two match points. Hurkacz earned two mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-2.  

Hurkacz will face either Brazilian wild-card Joao Fonseca or James Duckworth. 

Dominik Koepfer was leading 6-4 4-3 against Felix Auger Aliassime, when the Canadian player withdrew from the match due to a left hip injury. Fabian Mazoszan overcame last year’s Wimbledon quarter finalist Roman Safiulin 7-5 4-6 6-1. Maroszan could face world number 1 Jannik Sinner, if the Italian player beats Tallon Grieksppr. 

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Alex De Minaur beats Sebastian Korda in s’Hertogenbosch to win his second title of the season

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Alex De Minaur beat Sebastian Korda 6-2 6-4 after 1 hour and 31 minutes to win the ninth title of his career at the Libema Open in s’Hertogenbosch. De Minaur claimed his second title of the season after winning in Acapulco last week. 

De Minaur, who was competing as a top seed for the first time this week, did not drop a set en route to the title at the Dutch grass tournament. He converted five of his 14 break points and saved four of the six chances he faced. 

De Minaur reeled off four consecutive games from 2-2 with back-back breaks in the opening set. The Australian player won eight of nine points breaking at love for 4-2 and consolidated with a hold at 15 for 5-2. De Minaur earned his second straight break to clinch the first set 6-2. 

De Minaur converted his fourth break point in the second game of the second set to build up a 6-2 2-0 lead. Korda broke straight back in the third game and held his serve at 15 in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. De Minaur converted his third break point in the sixth game to open up a 4-2 lead. The 2023 Davis Cup finalist saved four break points in the seventh game to hold serve for 5-2. 

Korda saved a match point in the eighth game as he was serving to stay in the match, but he made his fourth double fault to face a second match point. The US player hit a forehand pass to save his championhip point. 

Korda broke back for the second game in the ninth game at 15 in the ninth game for 4-5 with a forehand down the line, as De Minaur was serving for his second title of the season. On the changeover Korda took a medical time-out to treat a blister. After a five-minute delay Korda hit a between the legs mid-court forehand. 

De Minaur earned a third championship point with a forehand in the 10thgame, but Korda threw down a smash to save it. Korda hit a backhand long to face a championship match. 

Korda faced a fourth championship point after a backhand long. De Minaur broke serve in the 10th game on his fourth championship point to seal his second title of the season after 1 hour and 34 minutes, as Korda steered a forehand down the line wide. 

The Australian player, who beat Casper Ruud at the Mexican Open in Acapulco last February, has won multiple ATP titles in a single season for the third year following his triumphs in Sydney, Atlanta and Zhuhai in 2019, and in Antalya and Eastbourne in 2021. He has joined Australiana legends Patrick Rafter (1998) and 2000) and and Lleyton Hewitt (2001) as the third player from his country to win the title in s’Hertogenbosch. De Minaur has won his first grass title since Eastbourne in 2021.

“Obviously it was a great match. The conditions were tricky, and Sebastian is a hell of player. I am looking forward to playing doubles with him next week at Queen’s. I am super happy with the week. It’s been great. Happy days. I think it achieves a new career-high for me. That’s always a great title bonus for me. The first week on grass could not have gone better. I am looking forward to next week at Queen’s ”, said De Minaur. 

De Minaur, who had reached a career high of eighth with his semifinal win over Ugo Humbert in the semifinal, will rise two spots to world number 7 in the ATP Ranking next week after winning this title. 

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Sebastian Korda reaches his second semifinal of the season in s’Hertogenbosh

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Sebastian Korda beat Tommy Paul 6-4 6-2 in 67 minutes to reach his second ATP Tour semifinal of the season at Libema Open in s’Hertogenbosh. 

Korda hit 18 winners and won 84% of his first serve points. Korda earned his first break in the third game of the first set to take a 2-1 lead. Paul broke straight back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Korda broke for the second time in the seventh game to win the first set 6-4. Korda broke twice in the third and seventh game to close out the second set 6-2. 

Korda has improved his head-to-head record against Paul to 4-1. 

Korda reached the semifinal on grass at Queen’s in 2023. The US player is is aiming to win his first ATP Tour title since 2021, when he won in Parma on clay. 

Korda set up a semifinal clash against defending champion Tallon Griekspoor, who ccame back from one set down to beat Alexandar Vukic 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-3). Griekspoor has won his past eight matches at this tournament. 

Vukic broke in the ninth game to win the first set 6-4. Griekspoor earned his first break in the sixth game of the second set to win the second set 6-3. The third set went on serve with no breaks en route to the tie-break. Griekspoor earned two mini-breaks to open up a 4-1 lead in the tie-break. Vukic pulled one of the two mini-breaks, but Griekspoor held on his serve and sealed the tie-break on his first match point.

“I am very happy to be through. It was a very tough match once again. I think Alexandar played unbelievable grass court tennis, so it was not easy and I am very happy to find my way in the third set. I am enjoying the crowd, the atmosphere and the whole tournament”, said Korda. 

Alex De Minaur beat Milos Raonic7-5 6-2 in 1 hour and 26 minutes. De Minaur has improved to 3-0 in his head-to-head matches against Raonic, who was playing in just his fourth tournament of he year.

De Minaur earned his first break in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. Raonic broke straight back to draw level to 3-3. De Minaur broke for the second time in the 11th game and served out on his first set point after saving three break points in the 12th game. De Minaur broke twice in the fifth and seventh games to win the second set 6-2. 

De Minaur is aiming to win the second title of his career on career following his win in Eastbourne in 2021.  

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