Resurgent Belinda Bencic, whose precocious WTA rise was stalled by a string of injuries, has a more “relaxed” perspective as she again challenges the game’s elite.
Swiss Bencic, who turned 22 on Sunday, steamrolled world number one Naomi Osaka – the reigning US and Australian Open champion – 6-3, 6-1 on Tuesday night to reach the quarter-finals of Indian Wells.
Her run in the California desert comes on the heels of an impressive triumph in Dubai, where she beat four top-10 players on the way to her first title since 2015, when she shocked then-world number one Serena Williams to win in Toronto.
Having reached a career-high ranking of seventh in the world, Bencic battled injury and a slump in form and left the tour in 2017 to regroup, and looks in fine physical and mental shape since coming back.
“You are more relaxed, I think, because you know that it’s not the most important thing if you win the match or lose the match, and you have another chance the next week,” Bencic said. “I think before I didn’t realize that so much. I was like every match was life or death to me.”
Bencic, whose victory in Dubai boosted her ranking back to 23 in the world, will take on fifth-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova for a place in the semi-finals on Thursday.
Pliskova is vying to reach the final four for the third time in four years, while Bencic is in the quarters for the first time.
Bencic says she doesn’t feel she has to make up for lost time, now that she’s back, despite the fact that the younger generation of players like her and Osaka – born seven months after Bencic – are making their presence felt on tour.
“Always someone is number one, so you don’t feel ‘Oh, I should have been there’,” Bencic said. “I was just really focusing on getting back to the court.
“I was really happy with my recovery. When you’re injured, you don’t compare yourself to players that are playing currently. The ‘97 generation, we are so strong and we all are pulling each other up and inspiring each other. I think it’s a win-win for everybody.”