Friday, July 15, 2016

Bay Area's Bellis, 17, reaches 50K Stockton semis

CiCi Bellis, 17, of Atherton dismissed Arina Rodionova 6-2, 6-3
to reach the semifinals of the $50,000 Stockton Challenger.
 Photo by Paul Bauman
   STOCKTON, Calif. -- Arina Rodionova ousted one local favorite, but she couldn't do it two days in a row.
   Less than 24 hours after eliminating top seed and former Stanford standout Nicole Gibbs in a grueling match in 98-degree (36.7 Celsius) heat, an error-prone Rodionova fell to 17-year-old CiCi Bellis of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area 6-2, 6-3 today in the quarterfinals of the University of the Pacific $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit Challenger.
   Atherton, located near Stanford University, is 85 miles (136.8 kilometers) southwest of Stockton.
   "The tournament director, Ryan (Redondo), I've known since I was way little, and he was my Maze Cup coach when I was younger." Bellis said. "He's a really good friend of mine, and I'm so happy to see him."
   Bellis plans to attend Stanford, pending her SAT results, in the fall of 2017 unless she reaches the top 100 before then. In that case, she said she will turn pro instead.
   By reaching the Stockton semifinals, Bellis will rise from No. 220 to about No. 199. She would jump to approximately No. 185 by advancing to the final and to about No. 169 by winning the title. Bellis climbed to a career-high No. 152 last July.
   As the only American in the semis, Bellis also took the lead in the U.S. Open Wild Card Challenge. The U.S. player who earns the most points in two of the three participating tournaments -- Stockton, Sacramento and Lexington in consecutive weeks -- will receive a wild card into the U.S. Open, Aug. 29-Sept. 11 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
Arina Rodionova struggled today after winning a tough
match against top-seeded Nicole Gibbs on Thursday.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Rodionova, a 26-year-old Australian citizen from Russia, looked nothing like the player who ran down ball after ball in her 7-6 (3), 7-6 (6) victory over Gibbs in Thursday's 2-hour, 24-minute battle.
   This time, Rodionova lasted only 1 hour, 18 minutes in a match that began at 10:10 a.m., when the temperature was already 80 degrees (26.7 Celsius). After leading 2-1 in the first set, she dropped seven straight games. Overall, Rodionova lost her serve seven of nine times.
   "I didn't have enough time to recover and didn't feel 100 percent today," admitted Rodionova, the younger sister of top-50 doubles player Anastasia Rodionova. "I was just physically fatigued, normal stuff, when you play a long match and you don't have the proper recovery here. There's no facility, there's no ice, there's no massage. Yeah, it's tough. Probably not the ideal place to play, but anyway ... "
   Rodionova was exaggerating. Although the men's and women's clubhouses at the new $4 million Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center have not been built yet, there is a trainer's room in a small trailer, and there is ice.
   Bellis will face third-seeded Alison Van Uytvanck, who reached the French Open quarterfinals last year while playing with an impingement in her right ankle, for the first time Saturday at 10 a.m. Van Uytvanck finally had surgery in March and missed two months.
   "It will be tough because she has nothing to lose against me," said the red-headed Van Uytvanck, who defeated 2015 NCAA singles champion Jamie Loeb of Ossining, N.Y., 6-4, 0-6, 6-3. "She will be pumped. Let's make it a good match. I'm looking forward to it."
   Bellis has beaten a more accomplished player than Van Uytvanck. At 15, Bellis stunned 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of the 2014 U.S. Open. Cibulkova had reached the Australian Open final that year, losing to Li Na.
   Then again, Cibulkova is only 5-foot-3 (1.61 meters). Van Uytvanck is a powerful 5-foot-11 (1.80 meters).
   "You cannot play the person," asserted Bellis, 5-foot-7 (1.68 meters) and only 110 pounds (50 kilograms). "It doesn't matter who's across the net, whether you're playing (Van Uytvanck) or some girl with no name."
   Two unseeded players, 5-foot-5 (1.65-meter) Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal and 6-foot (1.82-meter) Anastasia Pivovarova of Russia, will meet in the second semifinal. They also will play each other for the first time.
   Larcher de Brito, 23, beat fourth-seeded Urszula Radwanska, the younger sister of fourth-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-3, 7-5. Both are WTA tour veterans coming back from surgery, Larcher De Brito on her right (playing) wrist last year and Radwanska on her left ankle in March.
    Larcher de Brito reached the third round at Wimbledon as a qualifier in 2013, beating Maria Sharapova, and 2014. Larcher de Brito also helped the now-defunct Sacramento Capitals win the 2007 World TeamTennis title at 14 years old.
   Pivovarova, who has had numerous injuries over the past four years, defeated 5-foot-3 (1.61-meter) American Robin Anderson 6-4, 7-5.
In Stockton, Calif.
   CiCi Bellis, Atherton, def. Arina Rodionova, Australia, 6-2, 6-3.
   Alison Van Uytvanck (3), Belgium, def. Jamie Loeb, United States, 6-4, 0-6, 6-3.
   Michelle Larcher de Brito, Portugal, def. Urszula Radwanska (4), Poland, 6-3, 7-5.
   Anastasia Pivovarova, Russia, def. Robin Anderson, United States, 6-4, 7-5.
   Robin Anderson and Maegan Manasse, United States, def. Asia Muhammad and Taylor Townsend (1), United States, walkover.
   Kristyna Pliskova, Czech Republic, and Alison Van Uytvanck (4), Belgium, def. Priscilla Hon and Storm Sanders, Australia, 7-6 (5), 7-5.
Saturday's schedule
(Starting at 10 a.m.)
Court 1
   CiCi Bellis, Atherton, vs. Alison Van Uytvanck (3), Belgium.
   Michelle Larcher de Brito, Portugal, vs. Anastasia Pivovarova, Russia.
   Robin Anderson and Maegan Manasse, United States, vs. Kristyna Pliskova, Czech Republic, and Alison Van Uytvanck (4), Belgium.

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