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Belinda Bencic Becomes First Swiss to Win Heart Award

Olympic gold medal champion Belinda Bencic has earned the Heart Award. EPA-EFE/LAURENT GILLIERON

Olympic gold-medal champion Belinda Bencic continues to achieve Swiss success.

Bencic has won the Billie Jean King Cup Heart Award for her stellar performances during November’s inaugural Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas 2021 Finals in Prague. Bencic is the first Swiss player to receive the award, which was first issued in 2009.

Bencic, who anchored Switzerland’s surge to their second Billie Jean King Cup final, will receive a $10,000 prize to be donated to a charity of her choice after being chosen for the Award in a public ballot.

Fans selected Bencic for the award from a shortlist of five candidates chosen for their displays at the Finals, a list that included USA’s Danielle Collins, Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia, RTF’s Liudmila Samsonova and Storm Sanders of Australia.

Bencic anchored Switzerland’s escape from Group D, dubbed the ‘Group of Death’ in Prague, ahead of hosts Czech Republic and Germany with hard-earned singles wins over former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber and reigning Roland Garros champion and home favorite Barbora Krejcikova, the world No. 3.

Belinda Bencic (R) and Jil Teichmann (L) of Switzerland celebrate with team mates defeating Katerina Siniakova and Lucie Hradecka of Czech Republic during their Billie Jean King Trophy 2021 Finals tennis match in Prague, Czech Republic, 04 November 2021. EPA-EFE/MARTIN DIVISEK

The reigning Olympic singles champion then guaranteed Switzerland’s spot in the semi-finals with a doubles victory alongside Jil Teichmann against Czech duo Lucie Hradecka and Katerina Siniakova, before her straight-sets win over Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic in the semis secured Switzerland’s spot in just their second Billie Jean King Cup final.

Having now played 15 ties since her first nomination back in 2012, the 24-year-old world No. 23 has an 18-8 win-loss record in singles and doubles, and becomes the first Swiss player to win the Billie Jean King Cup Heart Award.

“I am really happy to have won this Billie Jean King Cup Heart Award,” said Bencic, the first Swiss player to win the award since its inception in 2009. “I love to compete for my country, and to get it is a real honour for me. With this money, I’m going to donate it to dog shelters, because our dear [dog] Paula is also adopted.”

Bencic has chosen to split her $10,000 donation among five shelters near her home in Slovakia: Utulok Trnava (Trnava Shelter), Utulok Trencin (Trencin Shelter), SAOZ (Slovak Alliance of Animal Welfare), Pes v Nudzi (Dogs in Need), and Sloboda Zvierat (Freedom of Animals), the shelter from which Bencic adopted Paula.

Now in its 12th year, the Billie Jean King Cup Heart Award recognises those players who have represented their country with distinction, shown exceptional courage on court and demonstrated outstanding commitment to the team during Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas. To date, award winners have donated over $200,000 to charities worldwide.