Belinda Bencic of Switzerland completed an amazing season in 2015. At the age of 18, she achieved a year-end ranking of World No. 14 with numerous victories over players in the Top Ten. A clear threat to eventually ascend to the top of women’s tennis, Bencic is a player that could be a threat in majors during the 2016 season.
Bencic’s most notable tournament achievement thus far has come outside of the Grand Slams. Playing in a Premier Mandatory event in Toronto, Canada, the new Swiss Miss pounded her way through what was arguably the toughest draw to a title in all of 2015’s WTA events. First she took out Eugenie Bouchard, Canada’s top-ranked player. Then Bencic went on to take out two former World No. 1s in Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic. Bencic, in the late rounds, also defeated both Serena Williams and Simona Halep, players that were (and still are) ranked No. 1 and No. 2. Accomplished players can go their whole careers without winning a Premier Mandatory-level title – Bencic has one at the age of 18.
Another highlight of 2015 saw Bencic win a title on grass. Just ahead of Wimbledon, she claimed the Eastbourne title through Madison Keys, Bouchard, Wozniacki, and Agnieszka Radwanska.
While we’re stilling waiting for Bencic to put a semifinal dent in a Grand Slam draw, such success in a major appears to be in order for this rising star. After all, there is nobody similarly aged to her that is remotely close to Bencic’s ranking. Keys is currently the World No. 18, but the American is also a full two years older than Bencic. Daria Kasatkina is similarly aged to Bencic, but the Russia ended the year as the World No. 75.
I don’t have much doubt that Bencic is a special player that will soon be a mainstay in the middle-to-late rounds of Grand Slams. Whether 2016 will be growing pains or a year she breaks into the Top Ten will be settled on the courts. However, I would lean to a break into the Top 10 in 2016 for one simple reason.
After claiming the Toronto title through such a gauntlet of talented players, no one would have taken her lightly. Yet, she still had victories over Flavia Pennetta, Angelique Kerber, Wozniacki, Garbine Muguruza, and others in the last parts of the season. What I think that shows is that Bencic’s game doesn’t have a glaring weak point. There are a lot of players that have breakout tournaments, thereby attract attention to themselves, and then start losing as their weaknesses become studied. Bencic, in doing well post-Toronto, doesn’t appear to be such a player.
If there was a Grand Slam for her to win in 2016, my pick would be Wimbledon. However, her talent is such that a little bit of draw luck in any major might see her in the event’s late rounds.