INDIAN WELLS • Belinda Bencic is making a tricky game look easy at the moment, redirecting her big-swinging opponents' best shots into the corners, conjuring defensive lobs and flicking reflex returns from inside the baseline.
"I'm trying not to think who is on the other side of the court," she said.
But there is no ignoring the quality of her recent tennis victims.
From Dubai to Indian Wells, the Swiss has been taking on the best in the game and emerging again and again with a broad smile on her face. On Tuesday, she routed world No. 1 and Indian Wells defending champion Naomi Osaka in a little more than an hour.
In the quarter-finals on Thursday, she met with more resistance from No. 5 seed Karolina Pliskova before prevailing 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in 2hr 16min. It was her sixth win over a top-10 opponent in less than a month, extending her winning streak to 12 matches.
It was a match of fluctuating quality but no shortage of bravura shot-making in the breeze, Pliskova's flat power against Bencic's fast counter-punching.
"I think Belinda's the best in the world at redirecting power, I really do," said Mary Joe Fernandez, the ESPN analyst and a former champion at Indian Wells.
That is quite a statement, considering that women's tennis is full of talented counter-punchers, including French Open champion Simona Halep and Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber, who will face Bencic in the semi-finals today after defeating Venus Williams 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.
"Of course I'm very confident," said Bencic, who rose to world No. 23 with her first WTA title in four years at Dubai last month and will crack the top 10 by virtue of being in the last four at Indian Wells.
"I'm not putting pressure on myself even now," the 22-year-old added. "I'm just playing. The less I think on the court, the better it is.
"When you're confident, you can just trust your instincts. I'm definitely playing how I feel it, and it's going so well I'm not planning on changing that."
In the other semi-final, 18-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu faces sixth seed Elina Svitolina.
Kerber said she struggled to impose her game on Williams despite her win.
"I was really trying, in the first set especially, to find my rhythm and play my tennis, but it was not so easy," she told reporters.
"To play against Venus, it's always tough."
NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
INDIAN WELLS MASTERS
Semi-finals: StarHub Ch201, tomorrow, 1.45am