After defeating Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 at Eastbourne on Saturday to win the first WTA title of her career, Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic hailed the influence of superstar compatriot Martina Hingis.
The trophy breakthrough for the 18-year-old Swiss denied the 2012 Wimbledon finalist a second title at Devonshire Park on the English south coast.
Bencic, coached part-time by Hingis and by Hingis's mother Melanie Molitor, was playing in the third final of her career. She was beaten this month in the grass-court final at 's-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands by Italian Camila Giorgi. The youngster credited the Hingis team with "teaching me everything I know".
"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. "Of course they have been big influence on my game."
Bencic got away to a treble break in the third set for 5-0 as she finished the job against the 2008 Eastbourne champion with a forehand winner to the corner. "This is the biggest day of my career," said the world number 31 who will rise 10 places after her maiden trophy. "This is a dream come true. I'm so happy to win my first title. I woke up very nervous this morning and even in practise I was nervous.
"But once on the court I tried to fight for every point, I tried my best."
Bencic, who finished with 41 winners and 22 unforced errors, won the opening set in just under an hour. Radwanska denied the teenager a straight sets victory by taking the second to level after Bencic came back from an early break but lost the set with a backhand long.
In the third, the Swiss quickly recovered her poise to run away to the win in just over two hours. "I was very focused and really I played very free. I was disappointed I didn't close out the second set. I was also starting to get tired," said Bencic. "It was a lot of running and, yeah, long rallies. After the 3-0 (third set) I relaxed a little bit and could close it out very good."
Radwanska, close to tears in the trophy ceremony, committed nearly 50 unforced errors. "I'm happy to have played the final, I tried my best but Belinda was better today. After I won the second set I knew things could change quickly," said the Pole. "But it was a very tight match and I was just not there in the third set."
Bencic, still on a high after her first title, must now turn her thoughts to Wimbledon. "I play Monday first round, Tsvetana Pironkova (a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2010) is not an easy draw. "Tomorrow I have to recover very good and practice a little bit, and then I really need to focus on that first round because it's not very easy.
"But I'm not thinking about winning it"
Bencic benefited from two injury retirements in Eastbourne (Eugenie Bouchard and Caroline Wozniacki), spending only 13 minutes on court in her semi-final when Wozniacki retired after three games with a back problem. Radwanska had been bidding for the 15th trophy of her career and second on grass.
Bencic, the second-youngest member of the WTA top 100, improved her career grass-court record to 11-2.