GUADALAJARA, Mexico — The Belinda Bencic-Dmitry Tursunov era started with a scrappy, at times ugly, win a the Guadalajara Open Akron, but that’s precisely what the Swiss needs to unlock the next level in her game.
Forced into a third set by Leylah Fernadez after letting five match points go on a windy night in Guadalajara, Bencic quickly accepted that on this night, she would have to win ugly. She dialed back her aggression and focused on making balls, forcing Fernandez to play through the rallies. Her gamble paid off, as the Canadian struggled with her consistency and Bencic pocketed a 7-5, 6-7(10), 6-3 win.
Match report: Bencic holds of Fernandez to remain in WTA Finals contention
“I think this is the part where I can improve the most, change this [perfectionist] mindset,” Bencic told WTA Insider. “I’m trying, but sometimes it’s the perfectionism still in me. I have to change that system in my head. I have to do what I have to do, even if it’s not pretty.
“It’s a process. I’m not there yet, but it’s definitely something that I’m working on.”
Going forward, Bencic will be working on it with Tursunov, the experienced coach who took Aryna Sabalenka and Anett Kontaveit to career highs. After splitting with her coach Sebastian Sachs after the US Open, Bencic found herself in the market for a new coach. When Tursunov ended his work with Emma Raducanu, a prime opportunity presented itself.
“It’s definitely challenging for me because it’s different and it’s new and it’s something to improve,” Bencic said. “So I’m out of my comfort zone and it’s exactly what I want.”
“I strongly believe that he’s a very good coach and he can improve me, my game and the mental part. I’m super happy that he decided to work with me. I want to make it great and want to improve exactly this part that we were just talking about.”
Guadalajara is their first tournament together, which can be awkward timing given it is the final event of the regular season. If all goes well for Bencic this week, she still could qualify for the WTA Finals for a second time. But Bencic and Tursunov are already looking long term to 2023.
“I think it’s always important that the player wants to work with that coach,” Bencic said. “I think it’s different when a coach approaches a player. I really wanted to work with him.
“I saw the partnerships he had with other players and he had great success. His way of coaching is a way that can help me. I strongly believe it can be good. Also with the talks and on the court it has to click. I think it’s early for that, but I’m absolutely sure that it’s going to work out well and I’m going to try and do everything for it.”
In Tursunov, Bencic saw an analytical coach who had a proven ability to cut through the noise and focus on the tennis. Bencic’s talent has been evident from her start on the Hologic WTA Tour, with four singles titles and an Olympic gold in Tokyo. She reached a career-high of No.4, but the 25-year-old is still searching for her Grand Slam breakthrough and improved consistency. She has made the quarterfinals or better at three majors, all at the US Open, with her best result coming in 2019 when she made the semifinals before losing to Bianca Andreescu.
“I think he’s very clear-headed and tries to mentally get you to see things differently than you see now,” Bencic said. “He’s very honest and tough in things, but that’s precisely what I need. I don’t need someone to talk about everything but the point. I can see this can be the thing that I need to have a different perspective.”
Bencic faces Sloane Stephens on Wednesday in the second round.