Belinda Bencic and Simona Halep met at the first big US Open warm-up event in 2015 in Canada.
Skyrocketing up the WTA rankings from outside the top 180 to a place among the best 35 players in the world, Belinda Bencic was recognized as the Newcomer of the Year for 2014.
Her rapid ascent continued in 2015, getting a huge boost during the grass-court season as she captured her first title in Eastbourne. By the time the first major warm-up event before the US Open, the Rogers Cup, rolled around, the 18-year-old had cracked the Top 20. What she went on to accomplish over the course of her first five matches there in Canada lent weight to the idea of her being among the game’s up-and-comers: Bencic beat three top-five seeds—including world No. 1 Serena Williams, in the midst of one of her career-best seasons—on the way to the final.
There, she’d face Simona Halep, the second seed, who would be going for her fourth title of the year. Playing in her first final in five months, Halep defeated former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber to get there.
In their first encounter a year earlier, Halep won through in straight sets. Here, it was apparent early on that the Romanian was going to have a tighter match on her hands as she seemingly struggled with the conditions and health woes—and a player brimming with confidence. The first set eventually went to a tiebreak, and after going down 1-4, Bencic rallied to clinch the opener.
In the second set, the Swiss teenager found herself frustrated by Halep’s obvious struggles with the heat as she went for winners early in rallies. As Halep served for the second set up 6-5, Bencic regained her focus to break back and force another breaker. This time, she couldn’t replicate her feats of the first set as Halep won to level the match.
That win, though, was the last gasp for the Romanian. With Bencic up 3-0, Halep was forced to retire, giving Bencic the biggest title of her young career and putting the perfect cap on a performance few players could dream of.
This was Halep’s first loss in a U.S. final, having won in Connecticut in 2013 and Indian Wells in the first half of 2015.
The last time a Swiss player on the WTA Tour won two titles in a season was 2006, when Martina Hingis accomplished the feat in her comeback season.
All six of Bencic’s opponents over the course of the week had reached at least one Grand Slam final in their career.
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