February 15, 2016 / 4:01 PM / 4 years ago

Bencic becomes first teenager since 2009 to crack WTA top 10

Switzerland's Belinda Bencic hits a shot during her fourth round match against Russia's Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jason O'Brien Action Images via Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic became the first teenager in seven years to reach the top 10 of the WTA rankings after she climbed to ninth in the world on Monday.

A run to the final at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy ensured that Bencic, 18, became the first woman aged under 20 to enter the top 10 since Caroline Wozniacki in 2009.

“As a small kid, everyone is dreaming to one day become top 10,” Bencic, who won two titles in 2015, said in a statement.

“I now realize that all the hard work paid off. Until now, I didn’t know if I would make it. But this is an amazing moment for me and just... my dream. My goal is reached.”

A sport that was once the domain of teenage champions, with players such as Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario and Martina Hingis winning grand slam titles before turning 20, has seen a shift in recent years.

Maria Sharapova’s triumph at the 2006 U.S. Open was the last time a teenaged player won a slam, while last year’s four majors were all won by 30-something women as Serena Williams and Flavia Pennetta walked away with the spoils.

Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ed Osmond

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