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Monday, 16 January 2017 16:52 PM GMT
After injury lows, Bencic ready to savour Williams showdown
After suffering an injury-hit 2016, Belinda Bencic is ready to make the most of her first round clash with Serena Williams at the Australian Open... READ MORE

Sometimes you have to experience the lows before you can really appreciate the highs.

For Belinda Bencic, the 19-year-old Swiss, the lows were a series of injuries that came just when it seemed she had cracked it, soon after she broke into the world’s top 10 in February of last year. 

A lower back problem was followed by a coccyx injury and then a wrist issue, all of which saw her go from a career-high No.7 ranking to entering the Australian Open as the world No.59, where she has the unenviable task of facing 22-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams.

“I’m really not patient so it was very difficult for me to deal with that, seeing all the players playing when I couldn’t,” Bencic said in an interview. “But I think all players went through that, it’s not only me.

“I’m happy I had this experience now, where something is not good, because I learned to deal with it. Tennis will always be like this so if I have this experience now, it’s good.”

It was a win over Williams in the Rogers Cup in Canada in 2015 that showed the world – and Bencic herself – that she belonged near the top of the game.

“First time I played her, in Madrid, I was so nervous,” Bencic said. “I was so tight and I expected amazing things from her, like I expected she would ace me every time or kill every shot.

“But then she’s also a human – she plays great, obviously, she’s the greatest of all time, but you can play with her. That’s what I tried to take to the next match. That’s still the biggest one for me, I think it will always be.”

Bencic won that match in three sets and while some would be disappointed to draw the six-times champion in the first round here, the teenager plans to enjoy it.

“I can relax, I have nothing to lose,” she said. “Against her, no one has anything to lose, she has to win, so I can go with all my energy and just enjoy it. If I lose, OK, I play the next tournament. It’s relaxing. I will get to play on a big court, in front of a big crowd.”

Bencic arrived in Melbourne in fine mood, helped by her partnership with Roger Federer at the Hopman Cup team exhibition in Perth.

“It was a lot of fun,” Bencic said. “I’m so happy I got to know him, talk to him a little bit, his stories and opinions. And on the court, it was a full stadium and I was really pumped. I think I played really well in the mixed.”

Bencic says she now appreciates being on the Tour more than in the past, something she hopes will stand her in good stead in the future.

“I spoke to a lot of players about it and I think I have to enjoy it and not stress about ranking or expectation that someone put on me,” she said.

“It’s my career, I dreamt of being here in the first place and I really want to enjoy it. If I play good, the ranking will come. I am not going to worry about it. I think I have a lot of time, I will be here a minimum 10 years.

And she may have been frustrated by injuries in 2016, but her belief remains strong.

“I know if I play my best tennis and I get fit completely I think I can belong there," she said. "I proved I can beat the big players and I like the big courts. It will come.”

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