Saturday, July 23, 2016

Bellis, 17, eclipsed by Venus in Bank of the West

CiCi Bellis, shown Tuesday after upsetting No. 6 seed
Jelena Ostapenko, said she "can take so many positives
away from this week." Photo by Paul Bauman
   CiCi Bellis fared better against a Williams sister this time.
   Not well enough to win, but, hey, one step at a time.
   Bellis, a 17-year-old wild card playing five minutes from home, battled Venus Williams in the first set before falling 6-4, 6-1 in one hour in the quarterfinals of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
   "I learned a lot; it was a lot better than when I played Serena," Bellis, referring to her 6-1, 6-1 loss in 41 minutes in the third round at Miami last year, told reporters. "I just have to focus on the key points; there were a couple in the first set that, had I played more aggressively, I might have won them. But she's the No. 1 seed here and No. 7 in the world, so it's unbelievable getting to play someone like her.
   "Playing a tournament like this is such a great opportunity for me ... I can take so many positives away from this week. I won two matches and reached my first quarterfinal of a Premier. I'm really happy about that."
   Bellis, a home-schooled high school senior from Atherton, said she verbally committed to Stanford on Thursday. She can sign a letter-of-intent in November, but that only means she couldn't play for another school. 
   Bellis still could turn pro, which she has said she will if she cracks the top 100 in the world by the fall of 2017. By reaching the Bank of the West quarters, she will jump from No. 203 to about No. 156. Bellis also could attend Stanford for one year and then turn pro.
   "I think she has a good head on her shoulders for her age," said Venus Williams, 36. "She has a weapon, tries to control the point with her forehand. She only has room to grow; you can imagine that she's going to get a lot better."
   Williams will play American Alison Riske in today's second semifinal at 7 p.m. (ESPN2). Riske, ranked 79th, led No. 4 seed CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3, 0-1 when Vandeweghe, the 2012 Bank of the West runner-up to Serena Williams, retired with an ankle injury and left the court in a wheelchair.
   Williams defeated Riske 6-4, 6-2 on clay in the second round at Charleston in April in their only previous meeting.   
   In today's first semifinal at 2 p.m. (ESPN2), No. 2 seed and 2013 champion Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia will face No. 3 Johanna Konta of Great Britain.
   Cibulkova defeated No. 5 Misaki Doi of Japan 7-5, 6-0, winning the last 11 games after trailing 5-2 in the first set. Cibulkova, who got married on July 9 in Bratislava, will return to the top 10 for the first time in more than 18 months on Monday.
   Konta, playing in the Bank of the West Classic for the first time this year, beat Zheng Saisai of China 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.
   Cibulkova is 1-0 against Konta, winning 7-6 (6), 7-5 in the first round at Hobart in January.  
   In the women's doubles quarterfinals, No. 2 seeds and 2013 champions Raquel Atawo (formerly Kops-Jones) of San Jose, Calif., and Abigail Spears of Colorado Springs, Colo., edged Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and Arina Rodionova of Australia 2-6, 7-5 [10-7]. 

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