By Ros Satar at the BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells
- Belinda Bencic  def. Karolina Pliskova  6-3 4-6 6-3
- Now on a 12-match winning streak and claims sixth Top 10 scalp
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA USA – Belinda Bencic continues to be unstoppable as she edged Karolina Pliskova in three sets to book her spot in the BNP Paribas Open semi-final.
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Belinda Bencic  def. Karolina Pliskova  6-3 4-6 6-3
In amongst the young and the most experienced, Belinda Bencic has almost crept under the radar as much as anyone can when slaying Top 10 players left and right. It started with canter through Aryna Sabalenka, Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and Petra Kvitova on the way to the Dubai title. And handily topped off with defending champion and World No; 1 Naomi Osaka, and now Karolina Pliskova to reach the BNP Paribas Open semi-final.
Hardly ‘old’ herself, an 18-year-old Bencic had one of the best wins in her career against the then No. 1 Serena Williams in Toronto, but a catalogue of injuries has seen a promising career side-lined since 2016 after reaching a career high of No. 7 in February of that year.
Now it seems the hard work to rebuild her career after undergoing wrist surgery in 2017 has paid off. She put in the hard yards going back to the ITF and WTA $125K circuit and winning four titles, putting her back in the Top 75.
It is not all a bed of roses through. Despite an early break for a commanding lead against a slow-starting Pliskova in the quarter-final, it was roles-reversed in the second set with an early break for the Czech and a battle to take set points, to level the match.
The early exchanges in the third set were competitive, and perhaps a chance for a decisive run was on Pliskova’s racquet with a long game of eight deuces and four saved breakpoints to hang to her serve, but it would be Pliskova who blinked first. In fairness Bencic had been the consistent aggressor for much of the match, and when the chance came to take advantage of a lax game from the Czech, she took it.
Her win over Pliskova puts her now on a 12-match winning streak, with two Fed Cup wins, her six-match run in Dubai and her four wins in Indian Wells.
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After the match, Bencic described this run of wins: “I’m very confident. You know, I’m really just trying to take it one step at a time. Of course, now it’s been a few steps more. But, you know, I’m not putting pressure on myself even now. You know, I’m just playing.
“I said yesterday the less I think on the court the better it is. When you’re confident, you can really just trust your instincts and you don’t have to think about it at all. I’m definitely playing how I feel it, and it’s going well so I’m not planning on changing that.”
A rueful Pliskova summed up the match as bad in all directions from her perspective but noted that the Swiss’ serve had improved, having practiced with her a few times.
“She tries to play all the balls pretty early in the court. That’s her biggest weapon. She can see the balls quite early. So, she can guess sometime the sides.
“The serve I think she improved since last time we played in the practice. We didn’t play couple years. But the serve, I think she could serve some breakpoints down, or some important moments she served quite well, I thought.
“Sometimes you’re just winning matches. You’re not thinking. I know this feeling. I think she’s right now in kind of this way where if she’s not thinking much and just playing. She’s playing good. I think she’s quite solid from the baseline. She doesn’t give you much. She moves well, and she’s confident. That’s about it.”
Bencic acknowledged that she has worked a little to improve that element but was important to stress that too much tweaking can actually be counter-productive.
“I also feel like it has improved. Definitely I have been practicing it a lot, but it’s not like I crazy thought about it and changed something. I feel with the serve the balance is very thin. When you’re trying to change your serve, it can also destroy your game because you’re thinking about it all the time. If something is not working and you’re thinking technical, then it’s not really good.
“I think I also started to feel it a little bit more myself, what I have to do. The service motion is also just instinct. You know, it should be. Yeah, I think it’s also very mental, the serve. So when you’re feeling under pressure, you know, when the receiver is returning well, so it can change.
“Yeah, I’m definitely also not thinking about that. So, thank you for asking me (smiling).”
Bencic will face the winner of the last quarter-final between Venus Williams & Angelique Kerber.
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