‘S-HERTOGENBOSCH, Netherlands – Last year’s finalist Belinda Bencic was made to work in her first match back from a two month injury layoff, but the No.1 seed edged into the second round of the Ricoh Open in a thriller over Alison Van Uytvanck, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(3).
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Bencic, the 19-year-old World No.8, was playing in her first match since April in Charleston when a back injury kept her off the court for over two months. Her opponent, Van Uytvanck, knows that feeling all too well: the Belgian was also on the comeback trail and competing for the first time since she sustained a foot injury in Miami.
“I’m just very happy to be back on the court again, without pain,” Bencic said after the match. “I missed the competition and playing matches like this. I was very happy today: nothing hurt, and even if I lose this match, I’m just really happy to be back on the court and fight for every point.
“I think it was a very tough way to come back, but I just want to go like this match by match.”
Van Uytvanck didn’t give Bencic any favors in their ‘s-Hertogenbosch opener, despite Bencic’s clinical start to the match breaking twice to run away with the first set 6-2. The Belgian’s slice and topspin gave Bencic trouble throughout the second half of the match, building up a 5-1 lead in the second set. Van Uytvanck was serving for the set – she even held a set point – when Bencic broke to start mounting her comeback. She rattled off the next three games and was just two points away from leveling the score before the Belgian could finally close the set 6-4.
The pair stayed toe-to-toe in the deciding set, sending their long standoff into a tiebreaker. They were even at 2-2 before Van Uytvanck blinked and Bencic ran away to a 6-2 lead.
A timely ace from Bencic on her second match point ended their two hour and two minute battle.
“We always have tough battles,” Bencic said of her No.132-ranked opponent. “She plays very different. It’s hard for me to play her, and I think it’s hard for her to play me. Of course, she likes grass, her game suits grass and she played very good today as well.
“But the important thing is I am very healthy, and no pain on the court. Just happy to win first round.”
HOW much did i miss fights like this… ? ?#callmecrazybutineedstressfulmatches aaaand most important.. No pain?
— Belinda Bencic (@BelindaBencic) June 7, 2016
Joining Bencic in the second round is No.2 seed Jelena Jankovic, who overcame a slow start to put away Katerina Siniakova, 6-4, 6-2.
Jankovic found herself down a 0-3 deficit in the opening set before she was able to find her footing on the new surface, rattling off three straight games to get back on par and breaking Siniakova for the set.
“I’m very happy to be through in my first match on grass,” Jankovic said. “It’s my first tournament on this surface so I did not start very well.
“I tried to fight a little more and tried to stay low and hit every point as much as I could because it’s completely different. I’m happy that I was able to stay strong and win in straight sets.”
No.3 seed Kristina Mladenovic, half of the French Open doubles title-winning duo, had no problem transitioning from clay to grass against Yaroslava Shvedova, advancing 6-4, 6-3. No.4 seed Jelena Ostapenko similarly cruised into the second round, easing past Serbian qualifier Jovana Jaksic 6-1, 6-0.
Also through are Viktorija Golubic, who downed No.8 seed Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-3, 7-5; Japanese qualifier Risa Ozaki, who beat Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 6-2; Aleksandra Krunic, who beat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 7-6(0), 6-1; and Dutch wildcard Richel Hogenkamp, who defeated Japanese qualifier Eri Hozumi 6-2, 6-2.