Prior to taking Centre Court for the gold medal match of the Tokyo Olympic women’s tennis singles competition, Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic received a message from Swiss tennis great Roger Federer.
“It said this is the perfect day to reach my dreams,” Bencic recalled hours later.
As is often the case when tennis is involved, Federer was right.
Bencic outlasted Marketa Vondrousova 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 on a humid night on Centre Court at Ariake Tennis Park to win the women’s singles gold model on Saturday.
“I was really happy about that, and he’s absolutely right,” Bencic said about Federer’s message. “He’s incredible in that way and he really supports all of the Swiss players.”
Bencic won’t have much time to celebrate. She is due back on Centre Court at 3 p.m. on Sunday to compete in the women’s doubles final. The Swiss and her partner Viktorija Golubic will face the Czech pair of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova.
Vondrousova, who eliminated Naomi Osaka earlier in the tournament, is the Olympic silver medalist, while Ukrainian Elina Svitolina took bronze.
“Today I was feeling a bit tired, but I think we played an amazing match,” Vondrousova said. “To have the medal is so good, I’m just too happy, I’m not going to be sad.”
While Bencic has yet to win a Grand Slam, a singles gold medal is something neither Federer nor Martina Hingis, another Swiss great, has achieved.
“I think I accomplished it for them,” Bencic said. “I think they did so much in their careers and I’m not sure I will ever be able to do what they did, but maybe I could help them accomplish this one with giving them this Olympics. So it’s both for Martina and for Roger.”
The gold medal match was a prolonged affair on Saturday.
Bencic won the 59-minute opening set, only for Vondrousova to respond by winning the second set in 39 minutes.
Bencic raced out to a 3-1 lead in the decider before Vondrousova rallied to tie the contest. Bencic, however, dug deep and eventually eased past her opponent.
“I have to be honest I was at the end of my strength,” Bencic said. “I don’t know what was going through my head. I was really just hoping I would get to the end. I just tried to get the ball across the net.
“I think when you feel you can’t do it anymore, but you still hold on to that dream, you really play as though it were your last match. I think I proved this during this week and I will prove it tomorrow: I don’t give up.”
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