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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, July 31, 2021

Belinda Bencic

Belinda Bencic beat Marketa Vondrousova 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 making history as the first Swiss woman to win the Olympic singles gold medal.

Photo credit: Getty

Deadlocked in the final set, Belinda Bencic took her shot at history on the rise.

Bencic burst through the final three games out-dueling Marketa Vondrousova 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 in the Tokyo Olympics final to make history as the first Swiss woman to win the gold medal.

More: Carreno Busta Fights off Djokovic to Win Bronze Medal

Straddling the baseline, Bencic transforms the blue Tokyo hard court into her own gold road of success.

Extending her run of excellence, Bencic raised her record in Tokyo to 10-0—winning all six of her singles matches and four doubles matches with partner Viktorija Golubic to power into tomorrow’s gold-medal doubles match. The Swiss pair will play reigning Roland Garros doubles champions Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova for gold five years after Bencic’s tennis mentor, Hall of Famer Martina Hingis, partnered Timea Bacsinszky to win the doubles silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry—I mean I didn’t think it would be possible,” Bencic told Olympic Channel's Trenni Kusnierek afterward. “I was fighting for my life and it worked out. I cannot believe it worked out. She made me work so hard and she did a very smart job obviously she knew I played so much tennis this last week.

“She’s a really good defensive player. I really tried to push, but also it was a balance between making too much risk and pushing her enough so she doesn’t come back. It was really tricky. I don’t know how I won. I don’t know.”

The ninth-seeded Bencic joins Marc Rosset, who captured gold in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, as the second Swiss singles gold-medal champion. Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka won doubles gold for Switzerland at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

Bencic stepped into the court to strike with conviction at crunch time—and took a timely break for right big toe treatment before her opponent served at 3-4 to tighten tension in the finale—then put her foot down erasing break points to serve out the fifth and biggest title of her life.

Tomorrow, Bencic bids to join Helen Wills Moody, Venus Williams and Serena Williams as the fourth woman to sweep singles and doubles gold medals at the same Olympics. Only three champions—the Williams sisters and Chilean hero Nicolas Massuhave realized that rare feat in the modern era.

“I will try again; I will play like it’s my last match of my career,” Bencic said. “This tournament, not this tournament, it’s the freaking Olympic Games, sorry.

“For me this is the biggest thing ever for an athlete. So I cannot believe I have two medals and one of them is gold already and one of them is still to be decided.”

Spare a thought for Vondrousova, who produced a phenomenal tournament surviving 16th-seeded Kiki Bertens in her opener, upsetting Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka in the third round before deconstructing fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina in the semifinals.

The Czech lefty combined her topspin forehand with some clever drop shots to stay in step with Bencic right up until 3-all in the decider. After Bencic pressed pause for big toe treatment, Vondrousova unraveled surrendering serve at love and though she earned a pair of break points in the final game the Czech could not find the finishing shot.

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Elina Svitolina skipped her honeymoon to play the Tokyo Olympics and reaped the rewards of her efforts winning the bronze medal with a 1-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 comeback conquest of Elena Rybakina.

The fourth-seeded Svitolina played lock-down defense draining errors from the power player's sometime flighty forehand wing. Svitolina rallied from 1-4 down in the decider winning five games in a row to lock down Ukraine's first tennis medal.

"It's unbelievable especially to win in that way, a really big battle," Svitolina said. "Today I gave it all. I really wanted to win today.

"I was fighting until the death almost so I'm really, really happy I got the medal. I'm really proud of the week here."

Bencic broke for a 2-0 lead in today’s final.

The pair traded breaks in the second and third games. Vondrousova curled her lefty slice serve off the sideline cementing her first hold leveling after four games.

Whipping her lefty forehand into the corners, Vondrousova stressed the Swiss. The unseeded Czech broke for 3-2 on a Bencic double fault. Bencic broke back sticking a couple of drives right off the baseline to level.

Tennis Express

Amid muggy conditions both women were soaked in sweat as Bencic belted a drive volley holding for 5-4.

The 22-year-old Czech served to force a tiebreaker in the 12th game, but Bencic stepped into the court and cranked some drive volleys putting Vondrousova on her backfoot. Bencic rattled out an error breaking for the third time to take the 59-minute opener. Bencic won 11 of 14 points played on Vondrousova’s second serve in the first set.

Aiming to play more proactive points, Vondrousova spun a pass that helped her break to start the second set. Playing closer to the baseline and driving her forehand down the line with more authority, the 2019 Roland Garros runner-up extended her second-set lead to 3-1.

Versatility is a Vondrousova asset and she showed it slashing a backhand return down the line and following with a fine half-volley winner breaking again for 4-1. Vondrousova surged to a 5-1 lead and dropped just five points on serve snatching the 39-minute second set.

One set would decide the gold-medal champion.

Driving through her shots with conviction, the typically subdued Vondrousova erupted with a loud “come on!” breaking to start the final set with a shout. Bencic broke back with a backhand down the line.

Forced to defend for stretches of the second set, Bencic was winning the battle of court positioning in the early stages of the third set. Prowling the baseline, Bencic was robbing Vondrousova’s reaction time—and chatter from her support box seemed to unsettle the Czech who double-faulted away a love break and 3-1 lead to the Swiss.

Resetting, Vondrousova was whipping her forehand crosscourt drawing an errant backhand to break back in the fifth game.

The 12th-ranked Bencic dodged a break point holding firm with a clenched fist in the seventh game.

Adding intrigue and time for introspection, Bencic took a medical timeout to have her right big toe taped up before Vondrousova’s serve. While the Swiss sat for the taping, the Czech bounced up and down behind the baseline ball in hand waiting to serve and having a few minutes to think about it.

The delay didn’t help Vondrousova’s cause as she sprayed errors dropping serve at love to hand Bencic a 5-3 lead and shot to serve for gold.

Bencic saved two break points touching the baseline with a backhand and erasing a drop shot with a backhand down the line. When Vondrousova found the net, Bencic had gold-medal point.

Vondrousova saved it with a whipping forehand and banged a backhand for another break point but could not convert. The Czech put another backhand into net to give Bencic a second gold-medal point.

A final shot sailed and Bencic dropped to the court in an eruption of emotion a gold medal champion today and assured of another medal tomorrow.


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