Aus Open: Confident Bencic to face Sharapova

Swiss teen Belinda Bencic has been thrust into the global spotlight at a young age, but she is adamant she can handle the pressure with her main focus on winning games and staying humble. The 18-year-old, coached by Melanie Molitor, mother of Martina Hingis, moved into the Australian Open fourth round on Friday, coming from a set down in a gritty 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 fightback over Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko.

Belinda Bencic defeated Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.   -  Reuters

Swiss teen Belinda Bencic has been thrust into the global spotlight at a young age, but she is adamant she can handle the pressure with her main focus on winning games and staying humble. The 18-year-old, coached by Melanie Molitor, mother of Martina Hingis, moved into the Australian Open fourth round on Friday, coming from a set down in a gritty 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 fightback over Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko.

Since bursting onto the scene in her professional debut one week after her 14th birthday in 2011, she has raced through the rankings from 1,059 to world number 14, winning tournaments in Eastbourne and Toronto last year. Such a stellar rise - which includes a win over world number one Serena Williams last year - has brought not only fame but fortune, with nearly US$1.5 million in earnings so far.

And Bencic's star will shine even brighter if she can upset world number five Maria Sharapova in the fourth round on Sunday. It has been a whirlwind few years for the teenager, but she plans to stay grounded and keep working on her tennis rather than her public image.





"Of course it's not easy, but I think when you're a good junior and you have the success early, you kind of have to learn and you have to deal with it. You just take it as a normal thing," she said, on dealing with the spotlight. "So I try to really stay on the ground, stay humble.

"I mean, just not do everything like in the press, but let your results on the court speak a lot for you. Just mainly focus on the tennis and not on how popular you are or trying to build up your image or something."

Maria, then Serena

A year ago, a nervous Bencic was dumped from the Australian Open in the first round but after a confidence-building season she said she was in a different place mentally. "I just feel like I'm not as nervous when I go to the court anymore," she said. "I mean, when I played last year I was very nervous. I didn't really know what to do on the court. Now I got a lot of confidence. When I go to the court, I stay more calm and really try to think more what I have to do."





She has also worked hard on her game, citing a better service game and more stamina. A semi-finalist at this month's Sydney International, the youngster has won her last 15 three-set matches, dating back to the 2015 French Open. When told of the statistic, she replied: "That's good, that's good. Because I was losing a lot, and then my dad and my coach were like, 'You don't have any fitness. You have to do this and that'.

"I don't know if it's only fitness, but also the focus and the belief that you can really play the best at the most important points and you really can't do any stupid mistake in the third set when it's four-all," she added. "So it's more the focus and confidence."

If Bencic upsets Sharapova she potentially faces a quarter-final against defending champion Williams, whom she memorably beat in the Toronto semis last year - one of only three matches the American lost in 2015.