She’s been dubbed “the new Martina Hingis” – and Belinda Bencic delivered her first top-level title under the watchful eye of her tennis mentor on Saturday.
The teenager became the youngest player to win a WTA Tour tournament since 2008 when she defeated former world No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanksa in the final of the Aegon International at Eastbourne in England.
Bencic triumphed 6-4 4-6 6-0 in her third career final, having lost in another grass-court event in the Netherlands earlier this month, and on hard court in China last October.
At 18 years and 109 days, she was 66 days older than Caroline Wozniacki – who withdrew from their semifinal Friday with a back injury – when the Dane won at New Haven in 2008.
“Martina gives me a lot of good advice, not just this week but all the time. Also I practice with her mom, so she’s my coach when I’m back at home,” Bencic told reporters.
“They have been a big influence on my game.”
Hingis was at Eastbourne to play in the doubles, where she and Indian playing partner Sania Mirza reached the semifinals.
Now 35, Hingis will next week be returning to Wimbledon – where she won one of her five grand slam singles titles back in 1997 as a precocious “Swiss Miss” and two of her nine women’s doubles titles.
She has focused on doubles since making her latest comeback in 2013, reaching last year’s U.S. Open final, and has also coached players such as former Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki.
Bencic made her debut on the hallowed grass courts of southwest London last year, losing in the second round.
Her ranking will be a career-high 21st when she takes on 2010 Wimbledon semifinalist Tsvetana Pironkova in her opening match on Monday.
“She always plays great at Wimbledon,” Bencic said of her Bulgarian opponent. “Tomorrow I’m just going to try to recover and practice a little bit, and then I just really need to focus on my first round. It’s definitely not going to be an easy match.
“I have nothing to prove at Wimbledon. I just want to play relaxed and be satisfied with my results.”
Radwanska, who lost in the 2012 Wimbledon final, missed the chance to win her first title since August 2014.
Although she beat Hingis in a Fed Cup singles match in April – eight years after winning their only other clash – she could not repeat that in her first encounter with Bencic.
Ranked 13th in the world ahead of Eastbourne, the Pole lost in the first round of the French Open last month, having split with coach Martina Navratilova before the clay-court grand slam after a poor run of results.
Radwanska has had better fortunes on grass, reaching the semis in Nottingham before coming to Eastbourne – where she won the title back in 2008.
“I think I had a lot of good matches, Nottingham and here, and I think that’s the main thing going into a grand slam,” said the 26-year-old, who plays Lucie Hradecka in her opening match. The Czech has never got past the first round at Wimbledon.
“I think I did the best preparation I could before Wimbledon, and I played some really good tennis these last few weeks, so now we’ll just wait and see what happens in London.”
Meanwhile, in the Nottingham men’s event, Denis Istomin won his first ATP Tour title after beating American Sam Querrey in Saturday’s final.
The 28-year-old from Uzbekistan won in straight sets, both of which went to tie-breaks.
Querrey, seeking to be the first U.S. winner of a men’s grass event since 2012, has now lost seven of his 14 career finals.