Friday, June 23, 2017

Bellis, 18, advances to first WTA Tour semifinal

CiCi Bellis poses with her coach, Anibal Aranda, last December
in Burlingame in the San Francisco Bay Area. Photo by Paul Bauman
   CiCi Bellis reached her first WTA Tour semifinal today in her first grass-court tournament as a pro.
   The 18-year-old product of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area breezed past Kristyna Pliskova, a 6-foot (1.84-meter) left-hander from the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-2 in 62 minutes in the Mallorca Open.
   "It's definitely one of the biggest achievements so far in my career," the 5-foot-7 (1.68-meter) Bellis gushed on of advancing to the semis. "Grass suits my game. I would say my movement was a big strength (today). I got to a lot of balls, and my defense was really good."
   Bellis, who's closing in on a seeding for the U.S. Open in August (if not Wimbledon beginning a week from Monday), ripped 26 winners and committed only six unforced errors. She won 24 of 27 points (89 percent) on her first serve and saved three of four break points against her.
   Pliskova, the 25-year-old twin of third-ranked Karolina Pliskova, had 21 winners and 17 unforced errors. She won only 22 percent of the points on her second serve.
   Both players cracked the top 50 for the first time in May. Bellis, the youngest player in that group, is ranked No. 42, and Pliskova is No. 46.
   Pliskova was playing in her fifth quarterfinal of the year on a fourth surface. She pounded a record 31 aces in a second-round loss to Monica Puig of Puerto Rico in last year's Australian Open. Puig won the singles gold medal in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.
   Bellis will face unseeded German Julia Goerges, ranked No. 54 after climbing to a career-high No. 15 in 2012, for the first time. Goerges, who's 10 years older and four inches (10.2 centimeters) taller than Bellis, defeated wild card and countrywoman Sabine Lisicki 6-2, 6-4.
   Lisicki, the Wimbledon runner-up to Marion Baroli in 2013, set the record for fastest women's serve at 131 mph (210.8 kph) in the 2014 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
   Goerges, who routed top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 6-2, 6-1 in the second round, has lost only 14 games in her four matches in Mallorca without dropping a set.
   In Saturday's other semifinal, No. 2 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia will meet either No. 3 Caroline Garcia, the defending champion from France, or No. 6 Roberta Vinci of Italy.

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