Belinda Bencic had to rely on winning a third set tiebreak to progress through her opening match as top seed at the Ricoh Open in the Netherlands.
The 19-year-old Swiss star, who has been on the sidelines for most of the clay court season because of a back injury, was tested to the hilt by Alison Van Uytvanck in ‘S-Hertogenbosch.
Although the Belgian was in formidable form, it was the delicate precision of shots from former Junior Wimbledon winner Bencic that sealed success 6-2 4-6 7-6(3).
Yet the current Eastbourne champion did look out-of-sorts at times, having been absent from the WTA Tour for two months, so was put through her paces.
Bencic, who finished runner-up here last year, was quick off the starting blocks to move into a 2-0 lead.
Van Uytvanck made no mistake on her second attempt to hold her service game, thumping down a pair of aces to settle her nerves.
— Ricoh Open (@RicohOpen) June 7, 2016
Yet Bencic bettered everything thrown at her to surge into a 5-1 lead and ultimately snatch the set in 27 minutes.
Van Uytvanck sprung to life, holding her serve and twice breaking the talented teenager to hold a four-game advantage.
With the crowds encouraging a third set, Bencic started to show her frustration by telling herself off for her failings. Bencic broke in the fifth game and twice won on Van Uytvanck’s serve only to again drop her service game and finally succumb in 42 minutes to level matters.
The 22-year-old appeared to be the most likely victor after holding her serve for the first three games in the deciding set.
But Bencic was in her groove to make it all square three times, all to a love service
Van Uytvanck went from a 4-3 lead to slip up and trail 5-4 after an intriguing battle of the highest quality.
Bencic fluffed the chance to move into the next round, dropping her serve and unable to stop the Belgian from being within a whisker of a shock triumph with the score at 6-5.
The Swiss star had to pull on all her experience and energy when serving to stay in the grass court tournament, forcing a tiebreak with a shot that clipped the line.
Van Uytvanck was willed on my the crowd but Bencic showed composure to soar into the lead and snatch victory on the first of three match points after a 126-minute tussle.
Triumphant Bencic said: “When you fight it will pay off, but I was so happy to be back on court.
“Even if I had lost I would have gone away with a smile because I really miss this moment to fight like this on court.”
The world #8 added: “I’m just very happy to be back without pain. It was a very tough way to come back, but I just want to go like this playing match by match.”