Two WTA 250 tournaments are taking place this week, in Luxembourg where Belinda Bencic leads the field indoors on hard courts, and at Portoroz where top seed Petra Martic fell at the first hurdle.
We are tennis players, we always have to adapt to the different conditions. I want to play a lot still and see, until Indian Wells, if it would be possible to qualify or not, then reevaluate from there. It’s make-able because it’s not such a big point difference. Belinda Bencic
Bencic has her eyes set on the WTA Finals and plans to play events leading into Indian Wells to try to secure a spot for herself in Guadalajara in early November.
The WTA announced earlier this week that the season-ending Championships featuring the top 8 players in the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals will be played at altitude in Mexico, prompting criticism from World No 1 Ash Barty’s coach Craig Tyzzer.
While Tyzzer has cast doubt on defending champions Barty’s participation at Guadalajara and the host city’s playing environment, Bencic remains determined to secure herself a place in the draw.
“I would be very happy to make it to the Top 8, so I wouldn’t mind playing on the moon,” said Bencic, who reached the semi-finals on her debut at the WTA Finals in 2019. “It might be a little bit different than usual, but I found last time in China it was also very special conditions.
“It was the slowest I’ve ever played. Maybe now, it’s just different.
“We are tennis players, we always have to adapt to the different conditions.
“I want to play a lot still and see, until Indian Wells, if it would be possible to qualify or not, then reevaluate from there.” the top seed at the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open added on Thursday following her opening win over Zarina Diyas, 6-1 6-3.
“It’s make-able because it’s not such a big point difference. I’ll definitely try and make it. Maybe improve in the race and then see what else I will play or take it more easy.”
The Swiss No 1 has resurged since a first round defeat by Kaja Juvan at Wimbledon in July, moving on to win the Olympic Gold Medal in Tokyo and reaching the quarter-finals at Cincinnati and the US Open, where she lost to the eventual champion, Emma Raducanu.
Bencic, who is ranked No 12 in the world but stands at No 19 in the Race, took just an hour to dispatch Diyas, a 27-year old ranked 105 from Kazakhstan, breaking serve 5 times and setting up a meeting with 7th seed Liudmilla Samsonova from Russia.
“Luxembourg was my first ever WTA tournament in qualies and main draw,” Bencic told the media in her Zoom press conference. “I was 14 and 15 years old when I played, so I have great memories.
“That’s why I feel very nice coming here. It’s a special atmosphere, obviously you never forget these kinds of things.”
Bencic’s next opponent, Samsonova, had a tougher passage to the quarter-finals, first getting past Japan’s Misaki Doi, 6-2 6-3, and then France’s Oceane Dodin, 7-6(5) 7-6(3).
Second-seeded Elise Mertens from Belgium needed to go the distance to defeat Aliaksandra Sasnovich from Bulgaria, 3-6 6-2 7-5, and she now takes on 5th seed Marketa Vondrousova from the Czech Republic, a 6-2 6-4 winner over Croatian qualifier Jana Pett.
No 3 seed Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia took out another qualifier, Arianne Hartono from the Netherlands, 6-2 4-6 6-1, and will face France’s Alizé Cornet, the 8th seed, who stopped local wild-card Mandy Minella, 6-2 6-3.
The last quarter-final sees Clara Tauson take on Marie Bouzkova after the Frenchwoman upset Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova, the 4th seed, 6-3 3-6 7-6(1) and the Czech took out Belgian Greet Minnen, 6-3 6-1.
Elsewhere, at Zavarovainica Sava Portoroz, on Slovenian hard courts, home favourite Kaja Juvan upset the No 1 seed Petra Martic from Croatia, 6-3 6-4, in the opening round, but has had her second round match against Aleksandra Krunic, a qualifier from Serbia, held overnight for completion on Friday with a place in the quarter-finals at stake.
Britain’s Katie Boulter came through qualifying and won her opening main draw match against Ukraine’s Katarina Zavatska, 7-5 6-3, but then fell to the No 2 seed Yulia Putintseva from Kazakstan, 6-3 6-1, on Wednesday.
In the quarter-finals, Putintseva meets Lucia Bronzetti, a qualifier from Italy, who upset American Bernarda Pera, 2-6 6-3 6-3.
Heather Watson, who recently dropped to British No 3 as a result of Raducanu’s meteoric rise in the rankings this week, could not get past 4th-seeded Sorana Cirstea from Romania, and went down 6-1 6-3 in her opener.
Cirstea advanced to the quarters with a 7-5 6-2 win over Czech Tereza Martincova where she will meet Italy’s Jasmine Paolini, who upset Anna Kalinskaya from Russia, 6-3 6-2.
The fourth quarter-final sees America’s Alison Riske, seeded 3, who struggled but prevailed over Slovakian qualifier Viktoria Kuzmova, 3-6 6-3 6-3, meet France’s Kristina Mladenovic, a 6-0 6-4 winner over Ana Konjuh.