What, no Williams? Federer inspires Bencic upset of Venus
The Australian Open will be without a Williams sister in the second round for the first time since 1997 after Venus was sent packing by a Roger Federer-inspired Belinda Bencic Monday.
The seven-time Grand Slam champion departed in straight sets as Swiss 20-year-old Bencic followed up her recent Hopman Cup win alongside compatriot Federer with a stunning 6-3, 7-5 victory in just under two hours on Rod Laver Arena.
Serena is missing following the birth of her daughter in September and the last time neither of the American tennis sisters got to round two in Australia Steffi Graf was world number one and Bencic was still two months away from being born.
Bencic, who lost to Serena in straights sets at the same stage last year, said she had received a huge confidence boost by having 19-time Grand Slam champion Federer rooting for her.
“I think all the week it was so great learning from him on the court or off the court,” she said of her victorious week in Perth with the world number two.
“Even now, I think it’s amazing he’s giving me advice, trying to give me tips, help me, like, looking how I’m doing. That feels great. I saw him after the match... he was very happy for me.” Venus, who lost in last year’s final to Serena, gave credit to Bencic, saying the Swiss youngster had “played above and beyond” to win.
“I think she played well,” said Williams.
“I don’t think I played a bad match. She just played above and beyond. I just have to give her credit for that.” The match started in routine fashion until the seventh game when former world number seven Bencic broke the Williams serve.
But she then had to hold off a ferocious fightback, saving five break points in an attritional game before a passing rain shower caused a 20-minute delay while the roof on Rod Laver Arena was closed.
They resumed with Bencic serving at deuce and the Swiss then crucially took the next two points for 5-3 before breaking Williams again to take the opener 6-3.
Williams departed for a bathroom break and, seemingly refreshed, struck back at the start of the second, breaking Bencic’s opening service game.
But the Swiss was not to be denied and put the pressure back on the Williams serve and levelled on her third break point.
Bencic, who made her WTA Tour debut as a 14-year-old against Williams in Luxembourg in 2012, had never beaten the seven-time Grand Slam winner in four previous meetings.
But at 6-5 in the final set Bencic seized her opportunity, watched from her players’ box by Federer’s parents. A ferocious backhand winner helped her get to match point on the Williams serve and she then secured a famous victory, with a little help from the Federer playbook.
“He’s so relaxed, being funny with his team, or even with everyone,” she said of the tennis great.
“Then on court, he’s so focused. “I think that’s the main thing I want to learn from him. That he’s trying to give advice and help also someone like me. I think that makes him pretty special.”