TOKYO – Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic won gold at the women’s singles tennis tournament on Saturday night, beating Czech marketa Vondrousova and positioning herself as one of the few players to win both singles and doubles gold at the same Olympics .
Bencic edged out Vondrousova in a tight third set to win the game, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, quickly breaking Vondrousova’s serve in game eight of the final set after taking an extended break during a substitution to have the big toe on his right foot heavily bandaged by a trainer.
Bencic did not appear frustrated with the medical downtime. As the trainer wrapped the toe, she bounced back in her seat for Panic’s “High Hopes”! at the Disco, which was playing through the stadium speakers. She then played more aggressively to move forward.
Vondrousova had a breaking point against Bencic in the last game but couldn’t convert and then made mistakes on the next two points to give Bencic the victory.
“If I end my career without winning any extra games I would always be happy because what I achieved today is something that no one can take away from me anymore,” said Bencic, who is ranked no. ° 12 worldwide. with four titles on the women’s circuit, having won over $ 618,000 in prize money.
Bencic said she was uncomfortable at the start of the game, due to the heat, the timing of her shots and her effort to get the upper hand over Vondrousova. “I was already at the limit of my powers,” she said, after winning a tight first set and being quickly passed in the second. But, she said, she focused on her game, not the outcome.
The medical break in the third set allowed Bencic to regroup, heal a blister and get the break she needed to win.
“These kinds of things happen in tennis. She had a great game afterwards, ”said Vondrousova, who said she kept in touch with Bencic, a friend and training partner, throughout the tournament. Both players said they spoke before their showdown, and Bencic said Vondrousova’s friendship is important in a sport that can be lonely at times.
“You could see it on the pitch – we weren’t really opponents,” Bencic said.
Bencic is set to play in a women’s doubles final on Sunday, partnering with Viktorija Golubic on Sunday against seeded team Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic.
If Bencic can win doubles gold, she would be just the fourth woman to win both singles and doubles at the same Games, a feat last accomplished by Serena Williams in 2012 in London.
Bencic said she will play as hard as she can, but is also happy to have at least the guarantee of a silver doubles medal.
“I’m super excited for this and I’m going to give all the energy I have left,” she said.
Bencic had hoped to play in tandem mixed doubles with Roger Federer as well, but chose not to play in Tokyo due to a knee injury.
Bencic said Federer, who holds 20 Grand Slam singles titles, wrote to him on Saturday.
“He said it was the perfect day to make my dreams come true,” she said.
Bencic’s showdown with Vondrousova, which featured players mostly exchanging powerful groundstrokes, was much calmer and subdued than Tokyo organizers had hoped for, even with restrictions on fans due to the pandemic of coronavirus. The stands were almost empty, and the scattered applause from the Swiss and Czech delegations and volunteers was far more fleeting than the hum of cicadas (a summer rendezvous in Tokyo) and the roar of cars on a nearby freeway.
The tournament’s appeal to casual fans was all but wiped out during the week, when Vondrousova routed Naomi Osaka in the third round, dashing hopes of many Japanese for an iconic Olympic moment of a gold medal for Osaka, one of the country’s biggest sports stars. . Osaka, who lit the Olympic cauldron in the opening ceremony, lost to Vondrousova in about an hour and later said the weight of the challenge played a role in their loss.
“I should be used to it by now, but the scale of everything is a little difficult because of the break I took,” she said after a defeat that drew sharp criticism in Japan, undermining may -be the efforts made in the country to highlight racism. diversity of its athletes.
Earlier on Saturday, Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina came back from a poor first set to beat Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina for bronze, 1-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev and Russia’s Karen Khachanov will face off in the men’s final, scheduled for Sunday.