Belinda Bencic advances to the first Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open

NEW YORK: 13th Swiss seed Belinda Bencic advanced to her first Grand Slam Semifinal Wednesday at United States Open by defeating Croatia Donna Vekic 7-6 (7/5), 6-3.

Bencic will play Thursday against Canadian 15th seed Bianca Andreescu, who became the first teen in United States Open semis since 2009.

The semifinal feels great right now, Bencic said. I was dreaming of the arrival of this day, but you never know. I worked hard for this. Yes, a very nice feeling.

Bencic, who reached the 2014 United States Open quarter-final, ensured a return to the world rankings top-10 for the first time since June 2016 with the victory.

It sank just 328 after numerous injuries and left wrist surgery in 2017, but the 22-year-old Swiss began in 55 and has climbed from there, thanks in part to her third WTA title in February in Dubai.

Through the hard times, it helped me to see tennis a little differently when you can't always play, Bencic said. For me, this perspective changed and now I am enjoying tennis a lot.

Bencic, who never faced Andreescu, improved to 3-1 against his friend Vekic, who expelled her from the French Open this year.

We are both professionals enough to be friends off the court and competitive on the court, Bencic said. I think we did well. I am sure that off the court we are still friends.

Bencic, who enjoyed a third-round pass, knocked out the top-ranked defending champion Naomi Osaka in the fourth round, ensuring that the Japanese star will be replaced on Monday by the French Open champion Ashleigh Barty of Australia.

Vekic and Bencic exchanged background blows for most of the game. They exchanged breaks in the ninth and tenth games of the first set and Vekic saved a break point in the twelfth game with a right-hand volley winner to keep the tiebreaker.

Bencic made a 5-1 run-off run to take a 6-3 lead and took the set after an hour when Vekic hit right beyond the baseline.

I kept calm at important moments, said Bencic.

Vekic hit a setback to deliver a break and gave Bencic a 4-3 lead in the second set. Bencic held on and broke again to close the game after an hour and 41 minutes when Vekic hit a right-blow, the last of his 28 unforced errors.

I was just playing better tennis in general, Vekic said. I felt that I couldn't get three good points together. I really didn't have much rhythm out there. I was just struggling a little with that. I think he played the important points very well.

There will be four different women crowned as Grand Slam champions in 2019. It is the third consecutive year for the feat, first Open Era.

Andreescu, at 19, would be the first teen United States Open semi-finalist since Caroline Wozniacki in 2009.

She could become the youngest United States Open champion since Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova, who was a week younger than the suburban Toronto product when she won in 2004.

Andreescu, a champion this year at Indian Wells and Toronto, would be the first teen to win a Slam since Maria Sharapova took the 2006 United States Open .

But to have that opportunity, the Canadian must first dispatch Mertens, who dropped 16 tournaments in four rounds.

Mertens was the only quarterfinalist in his half of the draw to reach a Slam semifinal, having done so at the Australian Open last year.

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