Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Bellis ousts 20th-seeded Muchova in Aussie Open

CiCi Bellis, a 20-year-old San Francisco Bay Area product, pulled off the first big
 win of her comeback tonight to reach the third round of the Australian Open. That
equals her best singles result in a Grand Slam tournament. 2018 photo by Mal Taam
   Bellis is back.
   CiCi Bellis scored the first big win of her comeback tonight, knocking off 20th-seeded Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-4 in the second round of the Australian Open in Melbourne. They met for the first time.
   Muchova stunned third seed and former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals last July. Muchova then lost to Elina Svitolina.
   "I know how hard (Bellis) works, and this is an enormous story for American tennis," crowed ESPN commentator Rennae Stubbs.
   Bellis, a 20-year-old San Francisco native who grew up down the road in Atherton, was coming off a 6-0, 6-2 victory over 87th-ranked Tatjana Maria, a 32-year-old mother from Germany, in 52 minutes.
   Bellis climbed to No. 35 at age 18 in 2017 and was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year. Then came a harrowing 19-month layoff in which she had four operations, three on her right wrist and one on her right elbow.
   By reaching the third round of the Australian Open, Bellis equaled her best singles performance in a major in only the fourth tournament of her comeback. She also advanced to the third round of the 2016 U.S. Open and 2017 French Open.
   Bellis next will play 16th-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium. Mertens, an Australian Open semifinalist in 2018 and U.S. Open quarterfinalist last year, dismissed Heather Watson of Great Britain 6-3, 6-0 in 56 minutes.
   Bellis outclassed Mertens 6-3, 6-3 in the first round at Dubai in February 2018 in their only previous meeting. Bellis played only two more tournaments before arm injuries forced her off the tour.
   In the first round of Australian Open doubles, Bellis and Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic lost to third-seeded Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
   Mertens and Sabalenka won the U.S. Open last September for their first Grand Slam title of any kind. Bellis and Vondrousova, last year's French Open singles runner-up, reached the 2014 girls final at Roland Garros.
   Early today, eighth-seeded Serena Williams, a part-time Silicon Valley resident, improved to 7-0 this year with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia in the second round.
   Williams, who won Auckland two weeks ago for her first title since having her first child in September 2017, next will meet 27th-seeded Wang Qiang of China. Wang routed Fiona Ferro of France 6-1, 6-2.
   Wang shocked then-No. 2 Ashleigh Barty in the round of 16 in the U.S. Open last September before losing to Williams 6-1, 6-0 in the quarterfinals. That's the only previous meeting between Williams and Wang, not counting a walkover for Wang in the third round at Miami last March.
   In the opening round of men's doubles, No. 13 seeds Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan (Stanford, 1997-98), playing in their last Australian Open 20 years after their first, defeated Rohan Bopanna of India and Yasutaka Uchiyama of Japan 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.
   The Bryan twins, who will turn 42 in April, announced last November that they will retire after this year's U.S. Open. They seek their seventh Australian Open men's doubles crown.
   In other first-round men's doubles matches:
   –No. 10 seeds Mate Pavic of Croatia and Bruno Soares of Brazil beat Luke Bambridge of Great Britain and Ben McLachlan (Cal, 2011-14) of Japan 7-6 (4), 7-5.
   Bambridge and McLachlan, a New Zealand native who plays for his mother's native country, won the Auckland title two weeks ago. McLachlan and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany reached the Australian Open semifinals two years ago.
   Soares and Jamie Murray of Great Britain captured the Australian Open and U.S. Open in 2016. Pavic and Oliver Marach of Austria won the 2018 Australian Open.
   –U.S. Davis Cup teammates and California natives Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey, who was born in San Francisco, defeated Cheng-Peng Hsieh and Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei 6-7 (9), 6-4, 6-4.

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