Belinda Bencic reaches Olympic tennis final

Belinda Bencic and Swiss tennis are doing just fine without Roger Federer at the Olympics.

The 12th-ranked Bencic beat Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-3 on Thursday to reach the gold-medal match at the Tokyo Games.

And that wasn't all.

After a short rest, Bencic was scheduled to play again later with Swiss partner Viktorija Golubic against the Brazilian pair of Laura Pigossi and Luisa Stefani in the semifinals of the doubles tournament.

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"To have the medal for me is the greatest thing," Bencic said. "Now I go to the doubles and I hope to do it again so it’s not over yet, but I can really, really enjoy this moment."

If she also wins in doubles, Bencic would become the fifth player to reach two finals at the same Olympics since tennis returned at the Games in 1988, joining Serena and Venus Williams, Andy Murray and Nicolas Massu.

"In the next match I can be more relaxed because I already have a medal," Bencic said.

The results means that Switzerland is guaranteed a tennis medal at a fourth consecutive Olympics after Federer and Stan Wawrinka won gold in doubles in 2008, Federer took silver in singles in 2012 and Martina Hingis and Timea Bacsinszky claimed silver in doubles in 2016.

Federer announced a week before the Tokyo Games began that he wouldn’t play at the Olympics because he "experienced a setback" with his knee during the grass-court season. That left Bencic as Switzerland's most accomplished player in Tokyo and her performance represents a personal breakthrough for someone whose best Grand Slam result was reaching the semifinals at the 2019 U.S. Open.

Bencic saved six set points on her serve before eventually taking control of the opening set.

When a return from Rybakina landed in the net on the first match point after nearly three hours, Bencic dropped to her knees and covered her face with her hands as she began crying.

Play started four hours later than on previous days after organizers finally acted upon a request from players to avoid the hottest part of the day.

Still, it was steamy inside the Ariake Tennis Park with the temperature at 88 degrees F (31 degrees C) and with enough humidity to make it feel like 99 degrees F (37 degrees C) when play began.

But afternoon shadows quickly crept across the court and there was a consistent breeze to make it more bearable than playing in the bright morning sun as on previous days.

Fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine and 2019 French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic were to play in the other semifinal later.

Next up on Center Court, Novak Djokovic was facing Kei Nishikori of Japan in the quarterfinals as the top-ranked Serb attempts to extend his bid for a Golden Slam.

Steffi Graf in 1988 is the only tennis player to achieve the Golden Slam, winning all four Grand Slam tournaments and Olympic gold in the same calendar year.

Djokovic, who has already won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year, needs the Tokyo Games title and the U.S. Open trophy to complete the Golden Slam.

For the second straight day, Djokovic had two matches scheduled. He’s also playing again later with Serbian partner Nina Stojanovic against the German pair of Laura Siegemund and Kevin Krawietz in the mixed doubles quarterfinals.

The first man to reach the semifinals of the men's singles draw was 12th-seeded Karen Khachanov of ROC, who beat Ugo Humbert of France 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3. Khachanov will next face either Alexander Zverev of Germany or Jeremy Chardy of France.

In men's doubles, an all-Croatian final was set up between the pairings of Marin Cilic-Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic-Mate Pavic.

Also, the top-seeded Czech duo of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova reached the women’s final. Krejcikova won both the singles and doubles (with Siniakova) titles at this year’s French Open.