Abu Dhabi champion Belinda Bencic finally gets chance to fulfil skydive wish

Swiss collected the eighth title of her career on Sunday by defeating Samsonova in the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open final

Belinda Bencic celebrates after winning the Mubadala Abu Dhabi final against Liudmila Samsonova at Zayed Sports City. AFP
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When Belinda Bencic won the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in 2019, ending a near four-year title drought, she vowed to celebrate with a skydive.

Nearly four years on, the Swiss is yet to fulfil her wish of jumping out of a plane over Palm Jumeirah, but much like the similar-length delay between those past titles, the wait is almost over.

Bencic will be back in Dubai later this month aiming to conclude the WTA Tour's Middle East swing much the way she started it: with another title.

The 25-year-old world No 9 collected her second trophy of the year at the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open on Sunday, fighting back from the brink of defeat and saving three match points against Russia's Liudmila Samsonova for her eighth career title.

From Zayed Sports City, Bencic headed straight to the airport to hop on a plane to Doha for the Qatar Open. From there, she will be back in the UAE and once her Dubai campaign is finished, there will be "no excuses" to not go skydiving, she said.

"It never happened, can you believe that? My boyfriend promised me that if I won the tournament we would do it," Bencic said, "but now there is a great extreme sports woman in Switzerland and she's a good friend. She's coming to Dubai when I'm there, so I want to ask her to do it with me."

The athlete Bencic referenced is none other than Geraldine Fasnacht, a world renowned freeride snowboarder, base jumper and wingsuit pilot who has earned the nickname "bird woman".

"She does a lot of skydives and wingsuit flying, all this crazy stuff," Bencic said. "I will ask her to take us because I can trust her! She will take me and [boyfriend] Martin [Hromkovic]."

Should the skydive finally materialise, it will add to a bank of many happy memories for Bencic in the UAE. Her return to the winners' circle in Dubai, defeating four top-10 players en route, came after clawing her way back towards the top of the game following a wrist injury that had derailed a prodigious career.

Bencic, who reached the US Open quarter-finals at the age of 17 and was ranked in the top 10 by the time she was 18, didn't have to wait as long between titles this time round. Less than four weeks, in fact, having started her season with a triumph at the Adelaide International, one of four titles since Dubai including the not insignificant matter of an Olympic gold in Tokyo.

"It's the dates. I really love to eat the dates," Bencic joked when asked about her success in the UAE. "I mean, Dubai was a dream week for me. I still remember the tournament like it was yesterday.

"I just feel really nice here. The fans are really into it, [Abu Dhabi] was such a great event and I hope even more people will come next year. The tournaments in the UAE are always so well organised and as players we want for nothing, so hopefully I can continue in Dubai and get another one."

Updated: February 13, 2023, 11:19 AM