Charleston | Bencic wins as Stephens falls to Zheng Qinwen

Olympic champion Belinda Bencic came from a set down and was within 2 points of defeat before beating China’s Wang Xiyu in the first round of the Credit One Charleston Open in Charleston, SC, but Sloane Stephens was outlasted and fell to another Chinese, Zheng Qinwen.


Bencic, the No 10 seed from Switzerland, made it past Wang, 4-6 7-6(5) 6-3, on Tuesday, having fallen behind 3-0 and 5-2 in the second-set tiebreak before ripping off the final 5 points to avoid a straight-sets upset.

The Swiss saved 3 of 5 break points, and won 73.3 percent of her first-service points, 44 of 60, on her way to her first round win after 2 hours 26 minutes.

Wang saved a break point to hold serve before earning the first break of the match in the 7th game to take a 4-3 lead, and then held onto her final 2 service games to seal the first set.

The Chinese went up a break for a 3-2 lead in the second, and Bencic was forced to saved 2 break points before holding serve for 3-4.

The Swiss broke back in the 10th game to draw level to 5-5, as Wang was serving for the match at 5-4, but the Chinese failed to create a match point.

Wang earned an early mini-break on the first point of the breaker, but Bencic came back by taking two mini-break points to win the tiebreak, and then went on to earn herself 2 breaks of serve to seal the 3rd set.

A semi-finalist in Charleston in her 2014 debut, Bencic reached the quarter-finals in 2019, but lost in the second round last year to Paula Badosa.

To avoid the same fate this year, she will have to stop the surging 16-year-old, Linda Fruhvirtova from Czech Republic, who triumphed in 3 sets over Croatia’s Ana Konjuh on Monday.

Teenager Zheng Qinwen upset 2016 Charleston champion Sloane Stephens on Tuesday

© Paul Crock/AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, Stephens, the 2016 Charleston champion, saved 10 of 16 break points but could not match Zheng’s 84.8 percent success rate on her first-service points, 28 of 33.

The American 13th seed fell to Zheng, 6-3 4-6 6-0, after the Chinese teenager sealed the biggest win of her young career to-date.

Zheng, who was 0-4 in her record against Top 50 opposition, had suffered 2 heart-breaking 3-setters over the last two months, beaten in a 3rd-set tiebreak by Leylah Fernandez in Monterrey, and failing to convert a 4-1 final-set lead against Angelique Kerber at Indian Wells.

There was no hesitation against Stephens, though, as Zheng found her best tennis in the deciding set, losing just 9 points to take the bagel with 3 breaks, and sealing the win after 2 hours and 2 minutes in a match that was suspended for half-an-hour because of rain.

Alison Riske defeated Caty McNally to set up a second round contest with top seed Aryna Sabalenka on Wednesday

© Mark Brown/Getty Images

Elsewhere, Poland’s Magda Linette and American Coco Vandeweghe both won 3-setters in 2 hours 28 minutes, the former defeating another American, Katie Volynets, 4-6 6-3 7-6(4), while the latter beat Anastasia Gasanova, 6-3 4-6 6-3.

After failing to convert her own match point at 5-3 in the decider, Linette saved one on serve at 6-5 before edging the ensuing tiebreak, the 23rd match on the Hologic WTA Tour so far this year in which the winner has saved match point.

Linette will face last year’s US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez in round two.

Former Top 10 player Vandeweghe, who is a lucky loser into the main draw after the withdrawal of defending champion and expected No 3 seed Veronika Kudermetova, notably scored her first tour-level clay-court win in 4 years with her win over Gasanova, and she will now take on fellow American Lauren Davis.

Two matches were suspended when the night session was cancelled due to the inclement weather and the possibility of a tornado in the Charleston area.

Ukraine’s Katarina Zavatska was beating 3rd-seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 7-5, 2-3 in a second-round match, while No 14 seed Ajla Tomljanovic from Australia was leading Sophie Chang of the USA 7-5, 4-4 in a first-round duel.

Top seed Aryna Sabalenka will make her Charleston debut against Alison Riske on Wednesday after Riske overcame Caty McNally in an all-American first round contest, 7-5 6-3.

From 5-4 down in the first set, Riske won 7 of the next 8 games to wrestle control of the match.

Riske was one of 5 Americans who punched their tickets through to the second round in the day session, joined by Davis, Vandeweghe, Emma Navarro and Hailey Baptiste at this WTA 500 event.



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