WTA/ATP: Bencic rules in Abu Dhabi, Wu makes history

 - Reem Abulleil

Swiss claims second WTA title of the season, Wu beats Isner in Dallas to make history.

Belinda Bencic, Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open 2023, trophy©Jorge Ferrari/Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open

Belinda Bencic started the year strong by triumphing in Adelaide and making the second week of the Australian Open and the Olympic champion is showing no signs of slowing down as she lifted the trophy at the inaugural Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open on Sunday.

It was Bencic's second title of the year, and eighth overall, thanks to a battling performance that saw her save three championship points on her way to a 1-6, 7-6(8), 6-4 success over Liudmila Samsonova in the final.

Daredevil Belinda on a roll

It was also the second time Bencic has reigned supreme in the UAE, having won the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships back in 2019.

"It's the dates. I really love to eat dates," joked Bencic when asked about her love affair with the Emirates, referring to the country's famous delicacy.

When the 25-year-old won Dubai, she said she was going skydiving to celebrate, a promise that was not kept by her boyfriend and strength and conditioning coach Martin Hromkovic.

Four years on, Bencic has a plan to finally jump out of a plane, and she hopes to make it a group skydive that includes Hromkovic and her coach Dmitry Tursunov.

"There is a great extreme sportswoman in Switzerland, Géraldine Fasnacht, and I’m good friends with her, we’re also both ambassadors of the same Swiss bank, Alpian, and she’s coming to Dubai when I’m there and I want to ask her because she does a lot of skydiving and she does wingsuit flying and all this crazy stuff, I’m going to ask her to take us because I’ll trust her, she’s a pro in that. She’s going to take me, Martin and Dmitry and we’re going to do it. No excuses," said Bencic.

Belinda Bencic, Liudmila Samsonova, Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open 2023, trophy©Jorge Ferrari/Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open

The world No.9 currently leads the tour with 12 match-wins in 2023 - one ahead of Aryna Sabalenka - and assures she is hungry for more, particularly at the bigger tournaments.

"I’m going to for sure have a lot of confidence but I don’t think it depends on the titles, it just depends on your feeling, how you’re playing the match," said Bencic, who showed great resolve in the way she turned the match against Samsonova, who went into the final with a 3-0 head-to-head record against the Swiss.

"Of course winning a lot gives you a lot of confidence but I think also the belief in your game, you can feel like now I’m playing well, I’m believing in my game right now. It comes down to the practice court and to know how much work you’re putting in at the moment. I’m definitely not looking to be happy with what I have now. I’m trying to look forward to continue to work hard even more."

China gets its first ATP titlist

Bencic was not the only title winner to save match points on Sunday; 23-year-old Wu Yibing survived 44 aces off of John Isner's racquet and saved four match points en route to a 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 7-6(12) victory at the Dallas Open.

The result capped a historic week for Wu, who has become China's first-ever ATP champion.

"I made history here for my country and for my own. I'm very proud of myself, especially thanks to all the fans and my team who come here and support me. I couldn't do any of this without you guys," said Wu on court.

"It was a very tough match today, I'm facing, I don't know 100 aces. It's a good thing he has this $100 thing, this makes more kids happy. I will take credit for that, because I'm not even moving when he serves."

Wu claimed the first top-10 victory of his career in the semi-finals when he dismissed world No.8 Taylor Fritz, becoming the first Chinese man in the Open Era to reach an ATP final and defeat a top-10 opponent.

The Hangzhou native started the week in Dallas ranked 97 in the world and moves up to a career-high No.58.

Silverware for Sinner, Potapova

Over in Montpellier, Jannik Sinner became the first Italian champion in the history of the Open Sud de France tournament, courtesy of a 7-6(3), 6-3 victory over Paris-born American Maxime Cressy.

Sinner has now won seven of the eight tour-level finals he has reached and his success in Montpellier is his first ATP title since Umag last year and see the 21-year-old return to the top-15 in the world rankings.

Meanwhile in Linz, another 21-year-old lifted a trophy as Anastasia Potapova downed Petra Martic 6-3, 6-1 to clinch the second WTA title of her career.

Potapova had been hampered by a knee injury all week but found a way to battle through the draw, winning each of her first four matches in three sets.

"Well, it was a tough week," Potapova was quoted as saying by wtatennis.com. "Let’s be honest, it was an unexpected result at the end, as I came here not in the best conditions. I was in pain, I was a little bit injured everywhere. After the first match, I just said, ‘Well, if I can bring this level, maybe I can try to go further and further in the draw’."

Potapova reaches the top 35 in the rankings for the first time.

In Cordoba, Sebastian Baez battled past fellow Argentina Federico Coria 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in one hour and 50 minutes.

It was the 22-year-old's second tour-level title and first on home soil.

"Winning a tournament in Argentina is something very difficult to describe with words, all my friends and family were there, it was something incredible," Baez was quoted as saying by atptour.com.