Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic is on a high, having reach both the women’s singles and doubles finals on Thursday, which guarantees her two medals as she bids for double gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Everybody was expecting us to be in the finals, but we had such a tough draw. So now that we’ve got through, it’s perfect, a dream come true. We are in the finals of the Olympics, and we are representing our country - it’s something special, something very deep. I hope the people back home are going to be proud when we get one medal or the other. Barbora Krejcikova
The 24-year-old Swiss defeated Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina in singles, and then, later in the day, paired with Viktorija Golubic to see off Brazilian duo Laura Pigossi & Luisa Stefani, 7-5 6-3, in the women’s doubles to become just the 5th player to reach both singles and doubles finals at the Olympics since tennis returned to the Games in 1988.
“This is for sure the best day [of my career], of course,” Bencic said. “This is the biggest result I have reached so far – and the biggest result in doubles.
“To do it both in the same day, it’s for sure the best result.
“I don’t really want this dream to stop – we were talking about maybe we wake up tomorrow and none of this happened and we’re going to be sad!
“But it’s reality. We’re super-happy.”
Only Venus Williams at Sydney 2000, Nicolas Massu at Athens 2004, and Serena Williams and Andy Murray (the latter reaching the mixed doubles final) at London 2012, have completed an Olympic double in the singles and doubles events, and Bencic is now on the cusp of joining that elite group.
“Olympic air, really,” Bencic responded on being asked where she got her energy from. “Right now I think it’s the emotions that get me through, it’s the positivity.
“It’s really this high. Now is definitely not the time to stop. I’m not going to jinx it – we go, we go. It’s not done yet. We still will have some energy for the finals.”
Bencic sunk to the floor in tears of delight after her singles win brought a Saturday showdown with World No 42 Marketa Vondrousova, who conquered 4th seed Elina Svitolina.
“My emotions right now… it’s too high,” she admitted afterwards. “To have a medal, it’s the greatest thing. Even to be here as an athlete, in the Olympics, it’s amazing.
“To have a medal, it’s something I dreamed of, and I didn’t think it would become reality. I’m beyond relieved and happy.”
Bencic follows in the footsteps of Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Timea Bacsinszky, Martina Hingis and Marc Rosset in claiming an Olympic tennis medal for Switzerland, but has gone one step further than her illustrious compatriots by ensuring she will depart Tokyo with two medals around her neck.
Switzerland is becoming accustomed to Olympic tennis success, with Bencic guaranteeing a Swiss tennis medal for the 4th consecutive Games.
Federer won singles silver at London 2012 and doubles gold with Wawrinka at Beijing 2008, while Bacsinszky and Hingis won doubles silver at Rio 2016, but Rosset is the only Swiss player to win a singles gold, at 1992 Barcelona.
Matches began at 3pm local time on Thursday, after organisers agreed to delay competition following complaints from players about the hot and humid conditions at the Ariake Tennis Park.
That Bencic & Golubic would win in straight sets seemed unlikely at the outset as Pigossi & Stefani won 18 of the first 20 points to go up 4-0, 30-0, before the Swiss pair improved their games and the Brazilians faded a little, allowing them to claw their way back to 5-5 before breaking and taking the first set.
The second was evenly-balanced at first, but the Brazilians began making mistakes while Bencic & Golubic maintained their level to break and ride out the match after 1hour 35 minutes.
“The Olympics, for me, is the spirit of sport,” said Golubic said when asked what it meant to be assured a medal. “Connecting people all over the world, sharing of emotions and freedom, all being connected by sport, this is what it means for me even when I was a small girl.
“This is big – it’s not just tennis or athletics, it’s kind of the meaning of life.
“This is why to even be here, to be an Olympian is huge, to be honest – obviously everywhere, and in Switzerland, but also for me.
“Now we are actually medalists, this is amazing.”
Top seeds Barbora Krejcikova & Katerina Siniakova are also through to the Tokyo 2020 women’s doubles gold medal match, securing the first of two potential Olympic tennis medals for the Czech Republic at these Games.
The reigning Australian and French Open champions, beat ROC’s Elena Vesnina & Veronika Kudermetova, 6-3 3-6 [10-6], to book their place in Sunday’s final where they will meet Bencic & Golubic.
Krejcikova & Siniakova have won 3 consecutive match tiebreaks to advance to the final, upending Spain’s Badosa & Sorribes Tormo, 10-5, and Aussie’s Barty & Sanders, 10-7, before the semi-finals.
“Everybody was expecting us to be in the finals, but we had such a tough draw,” Krejcikova told the ITF afterwards. “So now that we’ve got through, it’s perfect, a dream come true.
“We are in the finals of the Olympics, and we are representing our country – it’s something special, something very deep.
“I hope the people back home are going to be proud when we get one medal or the other.”
Vesnina, who won women’s doubles gold at Rio 2016, is still in the mixed doubles and will play for the Bronze medal with Kudermetova in the women’s doubles against the Brazilians, Pigossi & Stefani, on Saturday.
With Czech tennis history in the making, Krejcikova & Siniakova are assured of either a gold or silver medal, with compatriot Marketa Vondrousova still in the hunt for a gold medal in the women’s singles final, where she faces Bencic.
Well before they were Grand Slam singles champions, Ash Barty and Krejcikova made their first big impressions lifting major doubles trophies.
Barty reached the 2017 French Open final with Casey Dellacqua, won the 2018 US Open title with CoCo Vandeweghe and made the 2019 US Open final with Victoria Azarenka.
Krejcikova won the 2018 French Open and Wimbledon championships with Katerina Siniakova, and 3 consecutive Australian Open mixed titles, with Andy Ram and Nikola Mektic.
Barty went on to win the 2019 French Open and 2021 Wimbledon, while Krejcikova took the 2021 French Open title.
“I thought it was the reason Krejcikova won the French Open, because she had been there in doubles,” observed Pam Shriver, a 22-time Grand Slam doubles champion. “That comfort zone, having been in those major quarters, semis and finals, helped her in Paris this year.
“Same with Barty. You can only act like you’ve been there – if you’ve been there.”
Doubles play clearly does help on the singles court.