Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Bellis, making the grade as pro, breezes at Stanford

   STANFORD, Calif. -- At this time last year, CiCi Bellis was entering her senior year of high school and planning to attend Stanford University.
   One year later, the product of neighboring Atherton returned to the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford as a professional and the youngest player in the world's top 50 at No. 44.
   "It's crazy," the eighth-seeded Bellis marveled after using her impeccable groundstrokes to dismiss French veteran Alize Cornet 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour, 17 minutes on Tuesday night in the first round. "The two choices I had last year, being on this path or going to Stanford, are great ones. If I had chosen Stanford, I would probably be going there in a few weeks. It's crazy how different life could be if I had chosen that."
   Bellis, 18, turned pro last September after reaching the third round of the U.S. Open as a qualifier. Seeded in a WTA tournament for the first time at Stanford, she raised her arms after converting her first match point as if she had won the title.
   "This being my home tournament, I just get so much more excited for every winning points and matches," gushed Bellis, who estimated that she had "40, maybe more" family members and friends in the announced crowd of 1,179.
   Cornet, 27, is ranked one spot lower than Bellis. In 2014, Cornet became the first player to defeat Serena Williams three consecutive times since Justine Henin in 2007. One of Cornet's victories over Williams came in the third round at Wimbledon; another came via retirement.
   Cornet has the most Grand Slam appearances (46) without reaching a quarterfinal of all active players.
   Bellis, now based in Orlando, Fla., will face Veronica Cepede Royg, a 25-year-old qualifier from  Paraguay, on Thursday in a bid to reach the quarterfinals at Stanford for the second consecutive year.
   Cepede Royg, only 5-foot-4 (1.63 meters), downed Kristie Ahn, a 25-year-old former Stanford star also based in Orlando, 2-6, 7-5, 6-1.
   Cepede Royg defeated Bellis 6-4, 6-0 in the first round of qualifying in the 2015 French Open in their only previous meeting.
   Bellis could play second-seeded Petra Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion, in the quarterfinals on Friday. Kvitova returned to the tour in May after her left (playing) hand was severely injured in a knife attack at her home in the Czech Republic in December.
   During Tuesday's day session, sixth-seeded CoCo Vandeweghe of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., in the San Diego area beat Alja Tomljanovic (pronounced Eye-la Tom-lee-on-o-vich) of Croatia 6-2, retired (right shoulder).
   Tomljanovic, 24, withdrew from Sunday's final against 15-year-old U.S. sensation Amanda Anisimova in the $60,000 Sacramento Challenger with soreness in her surgically repaired shoulder.
   By playing one set in the Bank of the West Classic, Tomljanovic pocketed $7,225 (minus 30 percent tax), far exceeding the $4,863 (minus tax) she earned in Sacramento.
   Vandeweghe reached the final of the 2012 Bank of the West Classic as a lucky loser, falling to Serena Williams. Vandeweghe, then 20, held a set point in the first set of her 7-5, 6-3 loss.
   American Alison Riske, a semifinalist last year at Stanford and quarterfinalist in 2015, defeated Magda Linette of Poland 6-2, 6-4.
   Also, qualifier Caroline Dolehide, from Hinsdale, Ill., outplayed Naomi Osaka of Japan 6-4, 6-2 in a matchup of teenagers. It was the 18-year-old Dolehide's first main-draw match in a WTA tournament.
   Among the four doubles seeds, only the No. 3 team of Abigail Spears of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Vandeweghe remains alive after the first round.
   Americans Jennifer Brady and Madison Keys ousted top seeds Raquel Atawo (formerly Kops-Jones) of nearby San Jose and Hao-Ching Chan of Taiwan 4-6, 7-5 [10-6]. Atawo and Spears won the title last year and in 2013.
   Highlighting today's day session, former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova will meet seventh-seeded Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine not before 2:30 p.m. in the second round.
   In the featured night match, top seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza will face 17-year-old Kayla Day of Santa Barbara, Calif., at 7. The top four singles seeds received first-round byes.
   Here are the Bank of the West singles and doubles draws and today's schedule.

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