Erratic Bencic blusters through to third round at Australian Open

In-form Belinda Bencic's bid to become only the second Swiss woman to win the Australian Open stayed on track Thursday, but only after an erratic 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 win over American Claire Liu in the second round.

The 25-year-old came to Melbourne Park on the back of lifting her seventh career title in Adelaide, a win that propelled her back into the world's top 10.

But the 12th seed initially cut a grumpy figure, finding herself 5-2 and two set points down to the world number 62 in blustery conditions on Margaret Court Arena.

Bencic saved both, the second courtesy of a nervy Liu double fault.

Then after being urged to stay patient by her coach Dimitry Tursunov from the players' box, Bencic clawed her way back and took the set on a tiebreak after 72 minutes.

The Swiss tried to put her foot down at the start of the second set, breaking the 22-year-old Liu twice, but failed to consolidate the advantage each time.

When a third break came, however, Bencic made sure to hold her own, eventually taking the match in an hour and 51 minutes to extend her 2023 win-loss record to 6-1.

"I'm super happy with today's win because I thought it was a very difficult match," she said after a scrappy battle punctuated by nine breaks of serve and 21 unforced errors to her opponent's 41.

"I had to really fight as my opponent was playing very well and wasn't making it easy for me but I'm happy I stayed tough and I have another win."

The only Swiss woman to lift the Australian Open winner's Daphne Akhurst Cup previously is Martina Hingis, who did so in 1997, '98 and '99.

Bencic's best result in 10 previous Australian Open appearances was a run to the fourth round, in 2016.

Bencic moves on to play Italy's Camila Giorgi on Saturday for a place in the last 16.

dh/leg