Saturday, July 25, 2015

Kalinina blows big lead but beats Bellis in Challenger

No. 8 seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine was two points
from beating No. 3 CiCi Bellis of Atherton 6-3, 6-2 but
settled for a three-set victory. Photo by Paul Bauman
   GOLD RIVER, Calif. -- Anhelina Kalinina put it succinctly when asked about blowing a big lead in the second set of her quarterfinal against CiCi Bellis on Friday in the $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger.
   "Shit happens sometimes," Kalinina declared with a chuckle.
   But with maturity belying her age, the eighth-seeded Kalinina of Ukraine quickly recovered to defeat the third-seeded Bellis of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 in a battle of teenagers at the Gold River Racquet Club in the Sacramento region.
   Kalinina is a little older (18), significantly bigger (5-foot-10 or 1.79 meters) and only slightly more powerful than the 16-year-old Bellis, who hits surprisingly hard at 5-foot-6 (1.68 meters) and 110 pounds (50 kilograms).
   It's rare for a player to win two pro tournaments in two weeks, but both Kalinina and Bellis already have done it in $25,000 Challengers. Kalinina's titles came in April on clay in Jackson, Miss., and Pelham, Ala. Bellis, who remains an amateur, pulled off the feat last October on hardcourts in Rock Hill, S.C., and Florence, S.C.
   Those results have helped Bellis and Kalinina attain world rankings of No. 167 and No. 192, respectively, and they engaged in numerous breathtaking rallies on Friday.
   Kalinina was two points from an easy victory while serving at 5-2, 30-30 in the second set. But Bellis proceeded to break serve three straight times, with the help of two double faults and two ill-advised drop shots by Kalinina, while holding her own and stole the set.
Bellis reacts after holding her serve in the first
game of the third set. She did not win another
game. Photo by Paul Bauman
   "She was 2-5 down, then I give her some chances," Kalinina admitted. "She felt that she can win, so she started playing much more aggressive with, 'C'mon,' and 'C'mon, you can do it,' so it's always tough when your opponent is on fire. 
   "But it was my fault. I was playing until it was 6-3, 5-2, then I stopped, like maybe mentally. I didn't push her at the finish of this match, so that's why it was like this -- three sets, not two sets."
   While the players took a bathroom break after the second set, Kalinina regained her intensity. After Bellis saved a break point and held serve in the opening game of the third set, Kalinina reeled off six consecutive games for the match.
   "I was trying to push myself, like, 'C'mon, c'mon, you can do it. C'mon, Anhelina, move,' " Kalinina said. "Because when I stop moving my legs, my game is just nothing. When I move good, I can hit the ball and do good rallies."
   Kalinina combines power and quickness, allowing her to play outstanding offense and defense. Her forehand is excellent, her two-handed backhand even better.
   "I love playing forehands (on) high balls, backhand every ball," the colorful, endearing Kalinina cracked with a laugh.
   Kalinina will meet another teenager, 19-year-old Brooke Austin of Indianapolis, for the first time in today's second semifinal.
   Austin beat 5-foot-3 (1.61-meter) Robin Anderson of Matawan, N.J., 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 in a matchup of wild cards and 2015 college All-Americans. Austin starred this year as a freshman at Florida and Anderson as a senior at UCLA.
   Austin has the added incentive of the U.S. Open Wild Card Challenge, which consists of the $50,000 Challengers in Stockton, Sacramento and Lexington, Ky., in a three-week span. The American woman who earns the most WTA ranking points in two of the three tournaments will receive a wild card in the singles main draw of the U.S. Open, Aug. 31 to Sept. 13.
   By reaching the Sacramento semifinals, Austin tied Sanaz Marand for the lead in the race with 30 points. Austin, the only American left in the Gold River Challenger, can earn 19 more points by advancing to the final and 51 more points by winning the title.
   Marand defeated Austin in the first round at Stockton and lost to fourth-seeded Nao Hibino, the Stockton champion, in the first round in Sacramento.
   In today's first semifinal at 4 p.m., top-seeded An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium will play Japan's Hibino in a rematch of the Stockton final. Hibino, 20, won that encounter 6-1, 7-6 (6) to improve to 2-0 against Mestach, 21.
   Hibino also beat Mestach, a Fed Cup veteran and former world No. 1 junior, 6-2, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the $50,000 Challenger in Kurume, Japan, on grass in May en route to the title.
   Mestach dispatched fourth-seeded Mayo Hibi of Japan 6-4, 6-1 on Friday. Hibi, who was born in Japan but has lived in California since she was 2 1/2, won the Gold River Challenger two years ago at 17.
   Hibino beat 44-year-old countrywoman Kimiko Date-Krumm, seeded seventh, 6-3, 4-1, retired (thigh) to reach the Sacramento semifinals for the second year in a row. Date-Krumm ascended to a career-high No. 4 in the world 20 years ago but retired at age 26 for 12 years.
At Gold River Racquet Club in Gold River, Calif.
Singles quarterfinals
   Nao Hibino (4), Japan, def. Kimiko Date-Krumm (6), Japan, 6-3, 4-1, ret.
   Anhelina Kalinina (8), Ukraine, def. CiCi Bellis (3), Atherton, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1.
   An-Sophie Mestach (1), Belgium, def. Mayo Hibi (6), Japan, 6-4, 6-1.
   Brooke Austin, United States, def. Robin Anderson, United States, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Doubles quarterfinals
   Ashley Weinhold and Caitlin Whoriskey, United States, def. Alexandra Facey and Kat Facey, Cameron Park, 6-1, 6-2.
   Nao Hibino, Japan, and Rosie Johanson, Canada, def. Naomi Cavaday, Great Britain, and Alexandra Stevenson, United States, 6-1, 6-3.
   Eri Hozumi, Japan, and An-Sophie Mestach (1), Belgium, def. Jovana Jaksic, Serbia, and Anhelina Kalinina, Ukraine, 3-6, 6-0 [10-5].
   Robin Anderson and Maegan Manasse, United States, def. Mayo Hibi, Japan, and Jessica Pegula, United States, walkover.   
Today's schedule
(Starting at 4 p.m.) 
   An-Sophie Mestach (1), Belgium, vs. Nao Hibino (4), Japan.
   Anhelina Kalinina (8), Ukraine, vs. Brooke Austin, United States.
   Eri Hozumi, Japan, and An-Sophie Mestach (1), Belgium, vs. Ashley Weinhold and Caitlin Whoriskey, United States.
Court 3
(After rest, time TBA)
   Robin Anderson and Maegan Manasse, United States, vs. Nao Hibino, Japan, and Rosie Johanson, Canada.

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