Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bellis, Novikov advance in U.S. Open qualifying

CiCi Bellis, above, playing in last month's Sacramento
Challenger, and Dennis Novikov, below, won in strikingly
similar fashion today. Photo by Paul Bauman
   San Francisco Bay Area residents CiCi Bellis and Dennis Novikov won in eerily similar fashion today in the first round of qualifying for the U.S. Open.
   Both lost the first set. Both trailed by an early break in the third set. Both battled back for 4-4, and both prevailed 6-4 in the third set within minutes of each other in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   Bellis, 16, of Atherton outlasted 44-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. Novikov, a 21-year-old Milpitas resident, topped Gastao Elias of Portugal 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-4.
   Date-Krumm reached a career-high No. 4 in the world in 1995, four years before Bellis was born, and retired in 1996 for 11 1/2 years.
   “I definitely cannot imagine myself playing at 44 years old,” Bellis, who will play No. 22 seed Romina Oprandi of Switzerland on Thursday in the second round, said on usopen.org. "I don’t understand how her body is still going. She’s still so flexible and fast and keeps her body in such great shape. I can’t look at her age when I’m out there.”
   Bellis initially struggled with Date-Krumm's flat groundstrokes.
   “I was scrambling in the first set," Bellis said. "She hits the ball so low, and it barely goes over the net, so you literally have to be on the ground to hit it back.
   "A couple of my friends have struggled against her, too, so I knew it could definitely go three sets. I think I figured it out toward the end and realized I had to be the aggressor, because when she’s the aggressor, it’s tough to beat her.”
   Bellis received a wild card in last year's U.S. Open by winning the USTA Girls 18 National Championships in San Diego. She stunned No. 12 seed and 2014 Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova in the first round at Flushing Meadows before losing to Kazakhstan's Zarina Diyas, now ranked 34th, in three sets.
   Bellis avenged the loss by whipping Diyas 6-2, 6-1 in the second round at Miami in March. Diyas was seeded 29th in the prestigious tournament.
   “I think it’s actually better for me that I’m in qualifying this year,” admitted Bellis, ranked No. 161. “I can work my way through the matches. I’ll have three matches under my belt if I make it into the main draw, and if not, it’s still really good practice because everyone here is hungry to win.”
Novikov competed in the Aptos Challenger two weeks ago.
Photo by Paul Bauman 
   Novikov, ranked No. 204, has a booming serve at 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters) and 200 pounds (91 kilograms).
   “I thought I played pretty well overall,” said Novikov, who will face No. 26 seed Matthew Ebden of Australia on Thursday in the next round. “A very close match and a couple points decided it, but I thought I was a little more consistent than he was today. I knew I had a couple chances (in the tiebreak) when I was serving for the first set, so I just kept playing and I took my opportunities.
   “The main thing for me is to serve well and just be aggressive on every ball. If I do that, the match is in my hands. I had a solid hardcourt season, I’m playing well, and I’m getting better at each tournament, so hopefully this is the tournament I peak at.” 
   Novikov won the singles and doubles titles in the USTA Boys 18 National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., in 2012 to earn wild cards for both main draws in the U.S. Open. 
   Amazingly, Novikov reached the second round in each event at Flushing Meadows. He shocked 86th-ranked Jerzy Janowicz, a 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) Pole and 2013 Wimbledon semifinalist, in singles and teamed with Michael Redlicki to knock off U.S. veterans Bobby Reynolds and Michael Russell in doubles.
  Novikov turned pro last year after leading UCLA to the NCAA final as a sophomore.  
   U.S. Open National Playoffs in New Haven, Conn. -- Sacramento-area residents Yasmin Schnack and Katsiaryna Zheltova upset top-seeded Jacqueline Cako and Keri Wong, both of the United States, 6-1, 2-6 [10-8] in the first round. 
   Schnack, who helped UCLA win the 2008 NCAA title, and Zheltova, a former Sacramento State All-American from Belarus, will play Rima Asatrian of Tenafly, N.J., and Katharine Fahey of Fair Haven, N.J., in the quarterfinals.
   Asatrian, a sophomore at Columbia University in New York, and Fahey edged Ketevan Okruashvili and Magda Okruashvili of Georgia 4-6, 6-1 [10-8].
   In the first round of men's doubles, top-seeded Julio Peralta of Chile and Matt Seeberger of Vancouver, British Columbia, defeated Jordan Kerr of Australia and Travis Parrott of the United States 6-3, 7-6 (4).
   Seeberger, 31, was born in San Francisco and starred at UC Santa Cruz. Parrott won the 2009 U.S. Open mixed doubles title with fellow American Carly Gullikson.
   UC Davis senior Brett Bacharach and Aggies assistant coach Michael Meyer lost to Ace Matias of the United States and Denys Pume of Ukraine 2-6, 7-6 (3) [11-9].
   The men's and women's champions will receive wild cards into the main draws of the U.S. Open.

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