September 4, 2021

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Olympic champion Belinda Bencic put on a serving masterclass to beat Jessica Pegula 6-2 6-4 and reach the last 16 of the U.S. Open on Saturday.

The 11th-seeded Swiss won 85% of her first serve points and smacked four aces to improve to a 3-0 record against Pegula, including a victory over the American at the Tokyo Games that kicked off her gold medal-winning campaign.

“I had really a good feeling again on the court today,” Bencic told reporters.

“I felt my serve was working well, which was helping me a lot. My service games, they kind of felt easier to win, so I felt that put more pressure on my opponent.”

For Bencic, who has yet to drop a set in New York, the only struggle came when she was unable to convert three match point opportunities on Pegula’s serve.

But Bencic held to love in the next game, firing an unreturnable serve to seal the win on a picture-perfect day at Louis Armstrong Stadium court.

She said maintaining her focus was key to fending off Pegula’s second-set comeback attempt.

“I was really paying attention (not to) let her back in, because obviously she’s a great player and she’s had a great season so far,” she said.

“I’m really happy I didn’t let her back in the game.”

Next up for Bencic is either Estonian Anett Kontaveit or Polish seventh seed Iga Swiatek.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Ken Ferris and Toby Davis)