It’s starting to heat up down under. After making a run to the US Open quarterfinals last fall, 18-year old Belinda Bencic is one match away from equaling that result at the 2016 Australian Open. The new Swiss Miss had to come back from a set down to defeat Kateryna Bondarenko, 4-6 6-2 6-4. Obviously, matches still have to be played and anything can happen, but should she advance to the quarters it’s likely that she would face world #1 and defending champion Serena Williams, who is getting better with each round. Bencic beat Serena last year at Rogers Cup on the way to her second WTA level singles title. To be fair, Serena was way off her game that day. However, in the end it doesn’t matter how it happened. The bottom line is that Belinda was one of only three people to take down Williams in 2015.
There is a major roadblock standing between Belinda Bencic and a date with Serena Williams. That would be career Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova. The 6’2″ Russian superstar took out 5’2″ American Lauren Davis, 6-1 6-7 (5) 6-0. After fighting to take the second set, it was disappointing to see Lauren suffer the bagel in the final set. But Masha has an ability to regroup and focus that is matched by few on tour. So if Serena gets by her fourth round match…and while that’s likely, anything can happen in sports…just ask Roberta Vinci…the question is would fans rather see one of the biggest names in women’s tennis history, Maria Sharapova, play Serena knowing she hasn’t beaten the world #1 since 2004 or would fans rather see up and coming Bencic get another crack at the champ, knowing Belinda actually has beaten Serena within the last 12 months? I’m going to say Masha. I know she hasn’t beaten Serena in what seems like forever. But keep in mind that Serena is known to smoke players who have beaten her recently. Don’t expect that just because Bencic won at Rogers Cup that she will be more competitive that Sharapova. If it’s Serena vs Belinda, expect an ultra-focused Williams in that match.
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5 MARIA SHARAPOVA d. Lauren Davis, 6-1 6-7 (5) 6-0
12 BELINDA BENCIC d. Kateryna Bondarenko, 4-6 6-2 6-4