Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bellis, 17, earns first victory over top-10 player

CiCi Bellis, playing in last year's U.S. Open, defeated
sixth-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska today to reach the
quarterfinals in Dubai. Photo by Paul Bauman
   CiCi Bellis' decision to turn pro last September is looking pretty good.
   The 17-year-old San Francisco Bay Area product earned her first victory over a top-10 player today, ousting Agnieszka Radwanska, seeded fourth and ranked sixth, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
   "It's one of the best feelings in my life, for sure," Bellis, the youngest player in the top 100 at No. 70, gushed in her post-match news conference. "I'm really happy about the outcome tonight. I work so hard for it, and I think my work is paying off. I'm definitely playing some of my best tennis right now."
   Bellis, now based in Orlando, Fla., has won 21 of 23 matches since she turned pro after reaching the third round of the U.S. Open as a qualifier.
   "I have had kind of a dream couple of months since I have turned pro," said Bellis, who nonetheless missed January with strained hamstring and gluteus muscles. "Obviously it's not always going to be happy-go-lucky, but I have been really lucky so far.
   "I'm really just enjoying it more just thinking about how much fun I'm having and what an experience it's been for me so far."
   Bellis had not won a set in three matches against top-10 players. She lost to then-No. 1 Serena Williams 6-1, 6-1 in the third round in Miami in 2015, No. 7 Venus Williams 6-4, 6-1 in the Stanford quarterfinals last July and No. 2 Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-1 in the third round of the U.S. Open last September.
   Radwanska reached the 2012 Wimbledon final to climb to a career-high No. 2 in the world. She is the second Grand Slam runner-up whom Bellis has beaten.
   Bellis burst onto the scene at 15 by stunning Dominika Cibulkova, seeded 12th and ranked 13th at the time, in the first round of the 2014 U.S. Open. Cibulkova had advanced to the Australian Open final that year.
   Bellis also has defeated two players, Shelby Rogers and Zhang Shuai, who have reached Grand Slam quarterfinals.
   Radwanska, the 2012 Dubai champion, finished with three aces and six double faults against Bellis and had a higher first-serve percentage (62) than her opponent (58). Bellis, meanwhile, actually won a higher percentage of points on her second serve (64) than her first (61).
   Moaned Radwanska: "I didn't feel good from the beginning. I didn't play really great, and I was trying everything. I did what I could today. For me, it was really hard to control the ball and make the angles. Also, my serve didn't work at all.
   "In those kind of tight matches, you need those things. When you don't have it and you're struggling pretty much from the beginning, then you have a problem. I was really struggling. I was really focusing on myself today, but I just wasn't good enough."
   Radwanska described Bellis as "very solid. Very consistent. She can really play good rallies with good intensity, and I think that's a really good thing for that kind of young player. I think she was the best today."
   Bellis' victory was all the more surprising because she had needed 2 hours, 22 minutes to subdue Laura Siegemund of Germany 7-5, 7-6 (3) on Tuesday. Radwanska, meanwhile, had dismissed qualifier Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-3, 6-2.
   Bellis is scheduled to face 10th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, a former world No. 1 and two-time U.S. Open runner-up, for the first time on Thursday at 7 p.m. (7 a.m. California time). Live scoring will be available. Wozniacki, ranked 15th, defeated Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
   Bellis is projected to crack the top 60 with a loss to Wozniacki and the top 50 with a win.

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