2016 Aegon International

Return of Bencic will draw new fans

Belinda Dark Alt (c)

Belinda Bencic, who captured the 2015 Aegon International crown, is expected to return to Devonshire Park to defend her title.

With Eastbourne always a popular favourite Wimbledon warm-up tournament for ‘Swiss Miss’ Martina Hingis, teenage star Bencic is looking to follow in the footsteps of her compatriot.

As Bencic is coached by Hingis’ mother, she is aware of both the potential perils and prestige ahead of her on the WTA Tour.

Bencic captured her inaugural WTA Tour crown at Eastbourne, given a helping hand by the retirements of Canadian Eugenie Bouchard and Dane Caroline Wozniacki when both were being torn apart, and was always in control in the compelling three set final against Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska.

But Radwanska avenged her Eastbourne defeat, beating Bencic in the final at Tokyo.

Yet the 18-year-old surpassed her Devonshire Park achievements with an astonishing set of results to earn her first Premier 5 title and win the tournament in Toronto, Canada.

All six opponents that she dismissed en route to winning the Rogers Cup were former Grand Slam finalists, which included two ex-world numbers, as well as the current world no1.

Bouchard, Wozniacki, Sabine Lisicki, Ana Ivanovic, Serena Williams and Simona Halep were her victims as Bencic proved that she had no fear factor on court regardless of opponents’ pedigree.

Bencic, another superstar off the Switzerland conveyor belt of tennis aces, is expected to break into the world’s top 10 in 2016 and finished last season at #12 – although with Italian Flavia Pennetta above her having retired from the circuit is in theory #11.

Expect Bencic to be a regular attraction at Eastbourne as she potentially has the ability to overtake the achievements of the legendary Martina Navratilova at Devonshire Park, who made the tournament her personal ego boast ahead of Wimbledon with numerous triumphs on the south coast.

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