Monday, November 28, 2016

Bellis, 17, rides wave for 125K Honolulu title

CiCi Bellis, shown in July, beat 23rd-ranked Zhang Shuai
to win the inaugural Hawaii Open. Photo by Paul Bauman
   More and more, CiCi Bellis looks like a future top-10 player.
   The 17-year-old product of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area won her third consecutive title and first on the WTA tour on Sunday.
   Bellis, seeded fourth, outclassed top-seeded Zhang Shuai of China 6-4, 6-2 in the inaugural $125,000 Hawaii Open in Honolulu.
   After the 27-year-old Zhang, who received a late wild card, netted a backhand on Bellis' second championship point, Bellis fell flat on her back and held her head in her hands.
   "This is the best day of my life," Bellis, whose voice cracked as she thanked her team, crowed during the awards ceremony. "I don't even believe it right now. It's so amazing."
   Zhang, who stunned second-seeded Simona Halep and 15th-seeded Madison Keys en route to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in January, remained No. 23 in the world.
   Bellis jumped 17 places to a career-high No. 75. She turned pro in September after reaching the third round of the U.S. Open as a qualifier.
   Bellis recorded her fifth victory over a top-50 player and third over a Grand Slam quarterfinalist or better.
   As a 15-year-old wild card in the 2014 U.S. Open, Bellis knocked off No. 13 Dominika Cibulkova in the first round. Cibulkova had reached the Australian Open final that year, falling to since-retired Li Na of China.
   Bellis also ousted No. 49 Shelby Rogers, a French Open quarterfinalist in June, in the second round of the year's U.S. Open in late August.
   In the opening set Sunday, Bellis lost the first two games but won the next four and held on for the set. After Zhang won the first game of the second set, Bellis reeled off five straight games. She was soon holding the trophy again.
   Bellis saved four of five break points against her in the match and converted four of eight break-point opportunities. Zhang repeatedly missed returns of second serves in her first meeting with Bellis, who's listed at only 5-foot-7 (1.68 meters) and 110 pounds (50 kilograms).
   Bellis, who did not lose a set in the tournament, collected $20,000 for the title. Zhang pocketed $11,000.

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