Swiss Belinda Bencic remains on track to become the first teenager in a decade to win a women’s grand slam title after an impressive second round Australian Open showing.
Bencic’s hopes of matching her mentor Martina Hingis’s record as a grand slam winner at 16 are long gone but the 18-year-old can still make her mark at Melbourne Park.
There hasn’t been a teenage champion in the women’s game since a 19-year-old Maria Sharapova won the US Open back in 2006 and, as the only seed yet to hit her 20s, Bencic is the best chance.
Bencic booked her first third-round appearance at the Australian Open by sweeping aside Hungarian Timea Babos 6-3 6-3.
The world No.13 next faces Ukrainian veteran Kateryna Bondarenko.
Bencic started the year in impressive form, reaching the semi-finals against Monica Puig in Sydney before being forced to withdraw mid-match with illness.
Bencic was completely recovered and felt her game was in good shape.
“It’s nice to be in the third round here,” said Bencic, who was watched in the stands by Hingis.
“I think I served really good and I played a solid match but I feel like I can improve even more so I think that’s a positive.”
While there are obvious comparisons to the original Swiss Miss Hingis, who won five grand slam titles, Bencic said she wasn’t putting too much pressure on herself.
Her previous best performance at a grand slam was the fourth round at Wimbledon last year.
“Obviously it’s a great honour being described as like her and we have a similar game and I practice with her mother,” Bencic said.
“But I’m playing on my own.”
Bondarenko is back in the game after a hiatus to have a baby in 2013 and shocked 23rd seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.
“I was watching her when I was younger and now she’s returned and is a great player and can for sure play tennis,” Bencic said.