Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bellis wins in Italian Open, will crack world top 50

CiCi Bellis slugs a backhand in her victory over fellow
American Shelby Rogers in the second round of the
U.S. Open last August. Photo by Paul Bauman
   CiCi Bellis, an 18-year-old qualifier who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, defeated Misaki Doi of Japan 6-4, 7-6 (6) today on clay in the first round of the Italian Open in Rome.
   Doi, a 5-foot-3 (1.59-meter) left-hander, is ranked No. 62. She held a match point against Angelique Kerber in the first round of last year's Australian Open. Kerber won the match and went on to capture the first of her two Grand Slam singles titles.
   The victory assures that Bellis, who turned pro last September after reaching the third round of the U.S. Open as a qualifier, will crack the top 50 in the world for the first time on Monday.
   The Atherton product, now based in Orlando, Fla., will rise from No. 53 to about No. 45 -- or higher if she upsets Kiki Bertens, seeded 15th and ranked 20th, on Wednesday.
   Three teenage women, all 19, are ranked in the top 50. They are No. 28 Ana Konjuh of Croatia, No. 49 Naomi Osaka of Japan and No. 50 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.
   The 5-foot-7 (1.68-meter), 120-pound (54.4-kilogram) Bellis is headed higher, according to Chris Evert.
   "There are a handful of players who are going to overpower her right now, but by the end of the year I wouldn't be surprised if she was top 20," Evert, who has been mentoring Bellis through a USTA program, declared in a March 7 profile of the phenom in the New York Times.
   When Bellis plays Bertens, a 6-foot (1.82-meter) Dutchwoman, for the first time, she will try to defeat a Grand Slam quarterfinalist or better for the sixth time. Bertens reached the semifinals of last year's French Open.
   Bellis also will try to beat a top-20 player for the third time. She stunned No. 13 Dominika Cibulkova in the 2014 U.S. Open at 15 years old and No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round at Dubai in February.

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