Saturday, August 29, 2015

Bellis, 16, falls in last round of U.S. Open qualifying

CiCi Bellis, serving in last month's Sacramento Challenger, lost
to 11th-seeded Jelena Ostapenko, last year's Wimbledon girls
champion, 6-3, 6-2 on Friday. Photo by Paul Bauman
   CiCi Bellis, who pulled off a monumental upset in the 2014 U.S. Open, will not play in the main draw at Flushing Meadows this year.
   Bellis, 16, of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area lost to 11th-seeded Jelena Ostapenko, 18, of Latvia 6-3, 6-2 on Friday in the final round of qualifying. Ostapenko won the Wimbledon girls singles title last year.
   In the 2014 U.S. Open, Bellis became the youngest player to win a main-draw singles match since Anna Kournikova, also 15, in 1996.
   And Bellis didn't beat just anybody. She beat a seed. And not just any seed. She stunned 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova, last year's Australian Open runner-up to Li Na.
   Meanwhile, two former Sacramento Challenger finalists, Mayo Hibi and wild card Jessica Pegula, advanced to the main draw of the U.S. Open.
   Mayo Hibi, the 2013 Sacramento champion at 17, defeated former top-25 player Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-4, 6-4.               
   Hibi plays for her native Japan but has lived in California since she was 2 1/2. She will face 16th-seeded Sara Errani of Italy on Monday or Tuesday in the first round. Errani reached the final of the 2012 French Open, losing to Maria Sharapova.
   Pegula, the runner-up to Maria Sanchez in the inaugural Sacramento Challenger in 2012, beat 2009 U.S. Open quarterfinalist Melanie Oudin 7-6 (8), 6-0 in a matchup of Americans. Pegula's billionaire father, Terry, owns the NFL's Buffalo Bills and the NHL's Buffalo Sabres.
    Both Hibi and Pegula will play singles in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. In doubles at the U.S. Open, Pegula reached the third round in 2011 at 17 with Taylor Townsend, then 15, and the second round in 2012 with Madison Keys, then 17.
   Two other U.S. women, 16th-seeded Anna Tatishvili and Shelby Rogers, and one American man, 18-year-old Tommy Paul, survived qualifying. In June, Paul joined John McEnroe (1977) and Bjorn Fratangelo (2011) as the only U.S. boys to win the French Open junior title in the Open era (since 1968).
   U.S. Open National Playoffs in New Haven, Conn. -- Top-seeded Julio Peralta of Chile and Matt Seeberger, a San Francisco native living in Vancouver, British Columbia, won the title to earn a wild card in the main draw of men's doubles at the U.S. Open.
   Peralta, 33, and Seeberger, 31, will make their Grand Slam debuts after defeating Australians Ashley Fisher and Nathan Healey 6-4, 6-3.
   Seeberger joined the pro circuit as a doubles specialist only last year. He won a record eight NCAA titles (three singles, three doubles and two team) at Division III UC Santa Cruz from 2004 to 2007.
   In Friday's women's final, Sacramento-area residents Yasmin Schnack and Katsiaryna Zheltova lost to University of Alabama stars Maya Jansen and Erin Routliffe 6-4, 7-5.
   Jansen and Routliffe, the two-time reigning NCAA Division I doubles champions, will receive a wild card in the main draw of women's doubles at Flushing Meadows. 

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