Charleston Diaries 2014: Getting to Know Belinda Bencic

So, Changeover readers, I’m making it official: Belinda Bencic is going to be a thing.

(photos via Christopher Levy/Tennis Now)

The 17-year-old finished 2013 as the No. 1 junior in the world, and now she’s into her first ever WTA quarterfinal here at the Family Circle Cup. To get this far she’s taken out Yung-Jan Chan and Mathilde Johansson in quallies, and then Maria Kirilenko, Marina Erakovic, and Elina Svitolina in the main draw. That’s a pretty impressive run for someone ranked No. 140 in the world who only has a few months on the WTA tour under her belt. She plays Sara Errani in the quarterfinals later today.

Belinda won the French Open and Wimbledon in juniors last year, but I’m always hesitant to put a lot of faith in junior slams because the transition to the pros is one that has caused many hopefuls to stumble. However, her rise has been steady since she decided to move to the WTA tour full-time at the beginning of this year, and I’ve been incredibly impressed with her in Charleston. Therfore, I feel confident in saying that the hype is justified.

Here’s what I’ve learned about Belinda so far from two press conferences and a five-minute one-on-one chat (that her father was present for and participated in):

–She’s very friendly and sweet with the press, though it’s clear she still struggles with shyness–understandable for someone so young. Her father is always with her, and during our one-on-one she deferred to him for a lot of her answers.

–Belinda is coached both by her father and by Melanie Molitor, the mother of Martina Hingis.

Her father told me that when Belinda was about four or five, he thought that she had talent and so he reached out to Molitor. He said it was a “process” to get Molitor to actually coach Belinda, but that after visiting with her a few times it was the natural progression. After Martina retired from the tour (the first time), Molitor had more free time and therefore coached Belinda in Switzerland.

–Belinda only works with Molitor in Switzerland, where she is based during the season. She travels on tour with her father as her coach, and during the winter she practices at the Evert Academy in Florida. She spent about six months at the Bollettieri Academy when she was six years old, but that’s it.

–The 17-year-old really has the right attitude about her early success on the WTA tour: “I’m not so surprised,” she said after her second-round victory. “I was hoping for this. I’m very happy that it’s like this and I’m playing really well in this tournament, so yeah, I’m happy.”

–Growing up, she had posters of Maria Kirilenko on her wall. In fact, she had a lot of tennis posters on her wall. This girl just loves tennis:

–Belinda was overwhelmed when she first stepped into a WTA locker room when she was only 14. “It was very like, wow, oh, my God, I saw them on TV and now I’m here!”

–Her favorite movie is “The Hangover”

–She loves to read mystery novels.

–Her favorite ATP player? “Of course, my favorite is Roger Federer and Wawrinka, and also Nadal I like very much.”

–She doesn’t have a favorite WTA player anymore, because she has to play against them. Also, she doesn’t model her game after anyone. “I try to create my own game,” she told me.

–Her style of play? “My strengths are to play aggressive, to step into the court, and to be consistent in every shot.”

–She was a bit starry eyed when talking about meeting Stan at the U.S. Open and Fed at the Australian Open. “It was very impressive,” she said. “They were very nice.

–She doesn’t have a favorite surface. She loves them all. “Every surface, I can’t just pick one. I like grass very much. Also clay court I like. Also hard. I can play on everything.”

–Belinda and her father both greatly downplayed the talk of her having 11 sponsors, as this Forbes article discusses. Her father said that the Swiss federation helps out and that she has “two or three” sponsors. Then he added, “It’s not enough, if you know someone….”

–Belinda doesn’t know where she sees herself in five years. “I’m not really thinking about that, I’m just taking it step by step.”

–In her third-round match against Svitolina, Belinda threw her racket against the ground twice and got one obscenity warning. She blushed and covered her face in press when asked about it, clearly embarrassed.

“I mean I was just really excited to play this match, and I really wanted to play in the quarterfinals, so it was hard for me to get calm because I was quite nervous.”

–She thinks she was born competitive: “I also was like a small child very competitive and everything, and also I like the sport very much, so it’s obvious that I really want to win.”

Lindsay is an author, a filmmaker, a long-winded blogger, and a huge tennis fan.

2 Responses

  1. Peter
    Peter April 4, 2014 at 2:30 pm |

    Thank you for all this new content, Ms. Gibbs.
    As a die-hard fan, I truly appreciate your commitment to the sport.

  2. James
    James April 5, 2014 at 6:27 am |

    Great article, Lindsay.

    Agree that Bencic is going to be a thing. In her match with Kirilenko when she went from 5-2 and match points up in the second set to 5-6 and 15-40 down, I was so impressed she was able to close that out in two sets. It is her mentality that sets her apart from the rest. I am wary of officially jumping on the Belinda bandwagon because she is stilll so young and has a long way to go, but very excited about her potential and following her progress over the next couple of years.

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