Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Teen Bellis upsets No. 18 seed in French Open

CiCi Bellis, shown during the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford
last July, ousted No. 18 seed Kiki Bertens today in the second round
of the French Open. Photo by Paul Bauman
   CiCi Bellis' former coach, Monique Javer, taught the junior never to lose to the same player twice.
   Good luck with that now in the pros, but the trend continued today.
   Two weeks after losing to Kiki Bertens, Bellis upset the 18th-seeded Dutchwoman 6-3, 7-6 (5) on Court 2 in the second round of the French Open. The 6-foot (1.82-meter) Bertens, also ranked 18th, reached the semifinals at Roland Garros last year and won her second consecutive Nurnberg title last week. She admittedly felt pressure to return to the semis in Paris.
   Bellis, an 18-year-old product of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area, lost to Bertens 6-4, 6-0 in the second round of the Italian Open in their only other meeting. This time, Bertens saved four match points before dumping a drop shot in the net on the fifth.
   Bellis equaled her best result in a Grand Slam tournament. She reached the third round of last year's U.S. Open as a qualifier, then turned pro. Now the youngest player in the top 50 at No. 48, Bellis got straight into the French Open.
   By defeating Bertens, Bellis achieved her third career victory over a top-20 player. She stunned No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round at Dubai in February and, at 15 years old, toppled No. 13 Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of the 2014 U.S. Open. Cibulkova had reached the Australian Open final that year, losing to since-retired Li Na.
   "This is better (than beating Cibulkova)," Bellis, who reached the French Open junior doubles final with Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in 2014, said on "It's huge. It's hard for me to believe I'm in the third round. On the final point, maybe her nerves got the best of her. Just really lucky (for me) on that points. I do love playing on big courts at these tournaments."
   Bellis recorded her sixth career win over a player who has reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal or better. Radwanska has advanced to one final (2012 Wimbledon), four semifinals and seven quarterfinals. Bellis also has beaten Timea Bacsinszky (2015 French Open semis plus the quarterfinals in the 2016 French Open and at Wimbledon in 2015), Shelby Rogers (2016 French Open quarters) and Zhang Shuai (2016 Australian Open quarters).
   Asked about the prospect of becoming a U.S. star, Bellis said: "I've been prepping for that since I was really young. If I keep working as hard as I can every single day, I'll get there for sure.
   "Pressure? I don't even think there's that much pressure that comes with it. It's more like encouragement. People want you to do well. I think it will be fine."
   Bellis will try to live up to Javer's edict again on Friday against 11th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, who crushed 20-year-old Canadian qualifier Francoise Abanda 6-0, 6-0 in the second round.
   Wozniacki, formerly ranked No. 1 in the world, defeated Bellis 6-3, 6-2 on a hardcourt in the Dubai quarterfinals in February in their only previous meeting.
   Wozniacki is 14-9 lifetime in the French Open, her lowest winning percentage at any Grand Slam tournament. Her best result at Roland Garros, a quarterfinal appearance, came seven years ago.
   Bellis will rise to approximately No. 40 with a loss to Wozniacki and about No. 37 or higher with a victory.
   Javer, a 49-year-old resident of Hillsborough in the Bay Area, played professionally from 1985 to 2000. She climbed to a career-high No. 56 in 1992.

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