In the summer of 2015, Belinda Bencic announced herself as a force on the WTA. At the ripe old age of 18, the Swiss teen caught fire in a remarkable run. Her first ever Rogers Cup yielded the biggest trophy of her career.
Under the scorching Toronto heat, the youth blazed a path of her own. Ripping through Grand Slam champions and finalists alike, her fighter’s spirit was on full display in gutsy three-set matches.
The path to the success was no easy feat as she knocked off a laundry list of top title contenders in Eugenie Bouchard, Caroline Wozniacki, Sabine Lisicki, Ana Ivanovic, Serena Williams and Simona Halep.
Her intensity on the court was only matched by the enthusiasm of the crowd. Bencic took the performer’s role and, in front of the Toronto crowd, she displayed a fearless mindset. With legendary mentors like Swiss legend Martina Hingis, who herself won back-to-back Rogers Cup titles as a teen, Bencic proved age is but a number.
Without a doubt the toughest mountain to climb for Bencic came against the greatest player of all time: Serena Williams. Before the showdown, Williams suffered just one lost on the season. The David and Goliath stage was set and the heavy underdog rose to the occasion. The No. 1 seed and three-time Rogers Cup champion took the first set 6-3, signaling a victory was close at hand.
Where many falter, Bencic battled.
“Now I actually feel like I belong here and that I can really be one of the top players,” she said. “It’s an amazing feeling.”
The 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 Bencic comeback scoreline over Williams stunned the tennis world. But could she top such an amazing upset and win the title? Simona Halep stood in her way.
As much as it came as a shock to the fans and the tennis world to watch the baby-faced Bencic hoist the trophy with a 7-6, 6-7, 3-0 ret. win, the sentiment was shared by the player herself. The victory propelled her into the Top 15 for the first time in her career.
“It’s like I cannot believe it, and it’s amazing,” a giddy Bencic said afterwards. “I have no words for this, and definitely talk about a tough draw.”
In her maiden Rogers Cup appearance and title, Bencic checked off a lot of “firsts.”
At 18 years and 23 weeks of age, Bencic became the youngest female player to win the tournament, edging out Ana Ivanovic who won the title in 2006 at 18 years and 41 weeks. Bencic also became the youngest player in more than a decade to defeat Williams, the previous being a 17-year-old Maria Sharapova in 2004.
Perhaps the most enduring memory from 2015 Rogers Cup will be Bencic’s beaming smiles, seemingly ever-present.