Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Bellis, 17, overcomes scary injury to upset seed

Playing in her home  tournament, CiCi Bellis upset No. 6
seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia one day after getting
  struck in the left eye with an overhead in doubles.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   STANFORD, Calif. -- After suffering a frightening injury in doubles on Monday, CiCi Bellis didn't know if she could play in tonight's featured match in her home tournament.
   The teenager not only played, she pulled off one of her biggest victories in a professional tournament.
   Bellis, a 17-year-old wild card from neighboring Atherton, shocked sixth-seeded Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia 6-4, 6-4 in the first round of the Bank of the West Classic at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium.
   Bellis, who lives a five-minute drive from Stanford, won the last four games of the first set and the last five games of the second set. After Ostapenko slugged a forehand way long on Bellis' second match point, Bellis looked stunned, as if to say, "What have I done?" and pointed to her head to indicate mental toughness. 
   The hard-hitting Ostapenko -- the runner-up in Doha, a WTA premier-level tournament like the Bank of the West Classic, in February -- is ranked No. 38 in the world at 19 years old.
   Bellis, an amateur ranked No. 203, recorded her third win over a top-40 player. She defeated No. 13 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia in the 2014 U.S. Open and No. 32 Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan in Miami last year.
   It was also Bellis' first victory in her home tournament. She debuted in the Bank of the West Classic last year and lost to Misaki Doi of Japan in the opening round.
   In a first-round doubles loss on Monday, Bellis was clocked in the left eye by an overhead from Olga Savchuk of Ukraine.
   "I think it was actually one of the scariest moments of my life," Bellis, who cried during her post-match on-court interview when discussing the injury, calmly told reporters later. "She was on top of the net, and she went right at my face. It hit me right in the eye. I have this huge cut over my eye.
   "Last night, it was so swollen. When she hit me, I could not see out of my eye for probably 10 seconds. I thought I was blind. So just to be able to come out and play today was unbelievable. (I'm) so lucky."
   Bellis did not need stitches and said her vision was fine in the match. She has a good chance to reach the quarterfinals, in which she could meet top seed and two-time champion Venus Williams.
   Bellis will play qualifier Sachia Vickery, a 21-year-old American, in the second round for the second consecutive week on Thursday. Bellis won 6-4, 6-0 in the $50,000 Stockton Challenger en route to the semifinals.
   Bellis attended the Bank of the West Classic annually as a child.
   "This is by far the closest tournament to me," she said. "It's my home tournament. I live literally five minutes away, so to sleep in my own bed during the tournament and go home every single night is the best feeling of all time. I love this tournament so much."
   Asked how many family members and friends she had in the announced crowd of 1,483, Bellis cracked, "Probably half."           
   The home-schooled Bellis, who will be a high school senior, said she will receive her SAT results in a couple of days and hopes to commit to Stanford next week. She said last week during the Stockton Challenger, however, that she will turn pro instead if she reaches the top 100 by the fall of 2017.
Jelena Ostapenko complained about the conditions, the
balls and her preparation, and she was unimpressed
with Bellis' game. Photo by Paul Bauman
 Bellis, the world's top junior in 2014, evened her career record against Ostapenko, the 2014 Wimbledon girls champion, at 1-1. Ostapenko coasted 6-3, 6-2 in the final round of qualifying at last year's U.S. Open. 
   The 5-foot-10 (1.77-meter) Ostapenko has much more power than the 5-foot-7 (1.68-meter) Bellis, but Bellis was more consistent than Ostapenko on a cool night at Stanford.
   "It's such a great match for me coming back in both sets, especially the second. I just thought to myself, 'You have to stay with her on every single point and try as hard as you can.'
   "I knew I had to serve well today because she was attacking my serve last time. I was just trying to attack her serve as much as I could and get the point started in my favor." 
   Ostapenko committed nine double faults, including seven in the second set. She later complained about the conditions, the balls and her preparation, and she was unimpressed with Bellis' game.
   On the conditions: "Everything is so weird here. It's my first time here. The balls are Penn, which are never played anywhere, maybe only the American series. Not amazing conditions."
   On the balls: "They are so hard, and they are totally different from other balls, so I don't like them."
   On her preparation: "I just came like a couple of days ago. Jet lag is still on, so it's difficult to get used to this time (zone). During the night, I wake up like five times, so I cannot sleep, really. You have to (arrive sooner) because two days are not enough. But I didn't have a chance because I played semis in mixed doubles in Wimbledon."
   On Bellis' game: "Nothing special. I think she's more of a defensive player. I just played one of my worst matches this year, so that's the difference."
   Earlier today, Pittsburgh native Alison Riske upset eighth-seeded Varvara Lepchenko, an American citizen from Uzbekistan, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4).
   Lepchenko, a 30-year-old left-hander ranked No. 52, had reached the Bank of the West semifinals the past two years and the quarterfinals in 2013.
   Riske, 26, advanced to the Bank of the West quarterfinals last year in her tournament main-draw debut. She defeated Carla Suarez Navarro, ranked 10th at the time, in the second round for her second career top-10 win. The other was against No. 10 Petra Kvitova in the 2013 U.S. Open. Riske, ranked No. 78, is 2-13 overall against top-10 players.
   Julia Boserup, a 24-year-old wild card from Newport Beach, Calif., making her tournament main-draw debut, continued her strong play with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory over 18-year-old Naomi Osaka of Japan. Both are hard hitters at 5-foot-11 (1.80 meters).
   Boserup was coming off her breakthrough tournament, a third-round appearance at Wimbledon. A dual citizen of the United States and Denmark, she won the $25,000 Redding Challenger in 2011 and was the runner-up to Olivia Rogowska of Australia in the $50,000 Sacramento Challenger in 2014.
   Osaka reached the third round of this year's Australian Open, as a qualifier in her Grand Slam main-draw debut, and the French Open, in which she stunned No. 6 seed and 2014 runner-up Simona Halep. Osaka skipped Wimbledon with a right knee injury.
   Osaka, who has a Haitian father and Japanese mother, qualified for the 2014 Bank of the West Classic and shocked 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur in the first round before losing to eighth-seeded Andrea Petkovic of Germany in the second round.
   Maria Sanchez, who was born and raised in Modesto, and Johanna Konta of Great Britain beat Xinyun Han and Chen Liang of China 7-5, 7-6 (4) in the first round of doubles.
At Stanford
First round
   Urszula Radwanska, Poland, def. Kateryna Bondarenko, Ukraine, 6-4, 7-5.
   Julia Boserup, United States, def. Naomi Osaka, Japan, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
   Magda Linette, Poland, def. Kristyna Pliskova, Czech Republic, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5.
   Alison Riske, United States, def. Varvara Lepchenko (8), United States, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4).
   CiCi Bellis, Atherton, Calif., def. Jelena Ostapenko (6), Latvia, 6-4, 6-4.
   Sachia Vickery, United States, def. Elitsa Kostova, Bulgaria, 6-1, 6-2.
First round
   Johanna Konta, Great Britain, and Maria Sanchez, United States, def. Xinyun Han and Chen Liang, China, 7-5, 7-6 (4).
   Asia Muhammad and Taylor Townsend, United States, def. Misaki Doi and Nao Hibino, Japan, 6-2, 2-6 [12-10].
   Yifan Xu and Saisai Zheng (1), China, def. Yuliya Beygelzimer, Ukraine, and Kristyna Pliskova, Czech Republic, 7-5, 6-1.
Wednesday's schedule
(Starting at 11 a.m.)
   Alize Cornet (7), France, vs. Saisai Zheng, China.
   Johanna Konta (3), Great Britain, vs. Julia Boserup, United States (not before 1 p.m.).
   Misaki Doi (5), Japan, vs. Nao Hibino, Japan.
   Venus Williams (1), United States, vs. Magda Linette, Poland (not before 7 p.m.)
   Darija Jurak, Croatia, and Anastasia Rodionova (3), Australia, vs. Kateryna Bondarenko and Olga Savchuk, Ukraine.
Court 6
(Starting at 3:30 p.m.)
   Nicole Gibbs, United States, and Carol Zhao, Canada, vs. Jelena Ostapenko, Latvia, and Arina Rodionova, Australia.

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