TOKYO — Belinda Bencic of Switzerland won gold in the women’s singles tennis tournament on Saturday night, beating Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic and positioning herself to be one of very few players to win singles and doubles gold in the same Olympics.
Bencic edged out Vondrousova in a tight third set to win the match, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, breaking Vondrousova’s serve quickly in the eighth game of the final set after taking an extended break during a changeover to have the big toe on her right foot heavily bandaged by a trainer.
Bencic did not seem frustrated by the medical timeout. As the trainer wrapped the toe, she bounced in her seat to “High Hopes” by Panic! at the Disco, which played over the stadium’s loudspeakers. She then played with extra aggression to push ahead.
Vondrousova had a break point against Bencic in the final game but could not convert and then had errors on the next two points to give Bencic the win.
“If I end my career without winning any additional matches then I would still be happy because what I’ve reached today, this is something no one can take away from me anymore,” said Bencic, who is ranked No. 12 in the world with four titles on the women’s tour, having earned more than $618,000 in prize money.
Bencic said she was uncomfortable early in the match, because of the heat, the timing on her shots and her efforts to gain an upper hand on Vondrousova. “I was already at the limit of my powers,” she said, having won a tight first set and being quickly overwhelmed in the second. But, she said, she focused on her game and not the result.
The medical break in the third set allowed Bencic to regroup, treat a blister and get the break she needed to win.
“This stuff happens in tennis. She had a great game after,” said Vondrousova, who said she kept in contact with Bencic, a friend and practice partner, throughout the tournament. Both players said they spoke before their showdown, and Bencic said Vondrousova’s friendship was important in a sport that can be sometimes lonely.
“You could see it on the court — we weren’t really opponents,” Bencic said.
Bencic is scheduled to play in a women’s doubles final on Sunday, partnering with Viktorija Golubic on Sunday against the top-seeded team of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic.
If Bencic can win the doubles gold, she would be only the fourth woman to win both singles and doubles at the same Games, a feat last accomplished by Serena Williams in 2012 in London.
Bencic said she would play as hard as she could yet was also happy that she was guaranteed at least a silver in doubles.
“I’m super excited for it and I will give all the energy that I have left in me,” she said.
Bencic had hoped to also play mixed doubles in tandem with Roger Federer, but he chose not to play in Tokyo while dealing with an injured knee.
Bencic said that Federer, who has 20 Grand Slam singles titles, wrote to her on Saturday.
“He said that this is the perfect day to reach my dreams,” she said.
Bencic’s showdown with Vondrousova, which featured the players mostly trading powerful groundstrokes, was far more quiet and subdued than what Tokyo organizers had hoped for, even with restrictions on fans because of the coronavirus pandemic. The stands were nearly empty, and the scattered moments of applause from Swiss and Czech delegations and volunteers were far more fleeting than the buzz of cicadas (a summer fixture in Tokyo) and the rumbling of cars on a nearby freeway.
The allure of the tournament for casual fans was all but erased during the week, when Vondrousova routed Naomi Osaka in the third round, dashing the hopes of many Japanese for a signature Olympic moment of a gold for Osaka, one of the country’s biggest sporting stars. Osaka, who lit the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony, lost to Vondrousova in about an hour and said afterward that the weight of the challenge played in to her defeat.
“I should be used to it by now, but the scale of everything is a bit hard because of the break that I took,” she said after a defeat that drew harsh criticism in Japan, perhaps undercutting efforts in the country to highlight the racial diversity of its athletes.
Earlier on Saturday, Elina Svitolina of Ukraine came back from a bad first set to defeat Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan for bronze, 1-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4.
Alexander Zverev of Germany and Karen Khachanov of Russia will face off in the men’s final, scheduled for Sunday.