Despite losing a tight first set on a tiebreaker, Belinda Bencic was in complete control of her U.S. Open semifinal. The 22-year-old Swiss had bounced back against 19-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu to take a controlling 5-2 lead in the second frame, highlighted by two early breaks. It sure looked like we were headed to a stressful third set, where Bencic’s defensive style and ability to redirect Andreescu’s power would be favored to win out.
Yeah, about that:
Bencic’s serve had been on point throughout the first set (she held all six of her service games), but it suddenly began to fail her as Andreescu fought back by simply letting her opponent make mistakes. Bencic seemingly lost her cool, culminating with the sarcastic wave to the crowd and an angry towel wipe after the double fault to even the second set at 5-5.
That’s the face of a woman who is ready to commit a murder, preferably on a random fan cheering her mistakes. Though that double fault didn’t cost Bencic the match, it was the perfect symbol of a five-game run that saw her mishit various shots and fall prey to some ludicrous Andreescu shot-making, like this lob that somehow kissed the line to help propel her to a 6-5 lead:
By then, the teen was well on her way to becoming the first player born in the 2000s on either the men’s or women’s side to reach a Grand Slam final. If the double fault didn’t break Bencic, the lob certainly did, though her service game at 5-6 was the best of the match, with both players fighting off multiple advantages before Andreescu finally wrapped it up with a vicious forehand return that left Bencic all out of sorts:
Bencic is only 22, and she’ll catapult into the top 10 after a stellar performance in Queens, but she’ll be ruing all of the missed chances in the second set against an opponent that she mostly outplayed; she only broke Andreescu three times on 13 break points. Bencic was impressive throughout the tournament, especially in continuing her run of dominance against world No. 1 Naomi Osaka, who she has beaten three times in 2019.
Against a teenager playing above her level on Thursday, though, Bencic had a chance to fight into a third set when everything started to go wrong. She’ll be here again, but hopefully with a bit more composure. That’s no shade towards Andreescu, but this was a match for Bencic to win. Instead, she collapsed into a pile of nerves and rage, and now she’ll be watching Andreescu take on a dominant Serena Williams on Saturday, surely with visions of double faults and jeering crowds in her head.