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Bencic upbeat after close loss to Sharapova

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Bencic upbeat after close loss to Sharapova
Photo: AFP
22:11 CET+01:00
Swiss teen Belinda Bencic believes she is closing in on the world's top players after an epic fourth-round defeat to Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open on Sunday, and is keen for more big matches.

The 18-year-old, coached by Melanie Molitor, mother of Martina Hingis, proved to be a huge obstacle for the Russian, who eventually edged it 7-5, 7-5 in two hours, five minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
   
It denied Bencic a quarter-final clash with Serena Williams, but she was grateful for being able to show her mettle in such a big tournament.
   
"I'm just really happy now. I faced everyone in the top  ten and the top players," said Bencic, the WTA's highest ranked teenager who has already claimed ten top-ten wins in her short career.
   
"I feel like it's getting -- I'm getting closer and closer. So that's the positive part.
   
"For sure if I keep working hard and just improve a little bit here and there and also the head, most important situations, it can go well.
   
"I'm trying to take the positive also from today."
   
Watched court-side by compatriot Hingis, who is playing doubles in Melbourne, Bencic was ultimately undone by Sharapova's booming serve, with 21 aces fired past her.
   

She admitted it was part of her game that needed work.
   
"Everything, starting with the serve," she said when asked what she could improve on.
   
"And just a little bit more fitness, to be more fit, defensive game, offensive game. Just everything. Small details is what matters."

'Watching and learning'

The humble teenager added that she was highly motivated to continue her rapid rise through the rankings and was soaking up her Grand Slam experience.
   
"I'm proud of giving everything in every single practice and every single match," said Bencic, who started playing at Molitor's tennis school aged just four.

"So that's really what I want to do this year," she said.

"And then for sure I can go much further. I have to put the effort in, really everything that I do. If it's fitness session or a practice session, I really always have to give 100 percent."
   
Sharapova said that from what she had seen of Bencic on Sunday and over the past year, she had a big future ahead.
   
"She's beaten a lot of top players, she's won titles already," she said.

"She's not coming up - she's already there, pretty much." 
   
Bencic has raced through the rankings from 1,059 on her professional debut aged 14, to world number 14, winning tournaments in Eastbourne and Toronto in 2015, when she was one of only three players to beat Williams.
   
Asked if she had any advice for Sharapova, who faces Williams next and has failed to beat her great rival since 2004, Bencic said she was not qualified to offer any.
   
"I don't think I'm in the position to give Maria any advice," she said.

"I mean, she's such a champion. Obviously Serena, too. 
   
"It will be also a tough match. Yeah, I'm definitely gonna be watching and learning."

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