Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Brady blitzes Bellis, avoids facing top-seeded Pliskova

CiCi Bellis lost to fellow American Jennifer Brady 6-1, 6-2 in 51 minutes today in the
second round of the U.S. Open. 2017 photo by Mal Taam

Jennifer Brady is rolling while CiCi Bellis is trying to rebound.

Brady, seeded 28th, overpowered Bellis, who was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, 6-1, 6-2 in 51 minutes today in the second round of the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Both players are based at the USTA National Campus in the Orlando, Fla., area.

Bellis hit only three winners and committed 20 unforced errors as she fell to 1-1 against Brady.

Brady, 25, won her first WTA title three weeks ago in Lexington, Ky. She will face France's Caroline Garcia, who ousted top-seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 7-6 (2) at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Pliskova, the runner-up to Angelique Kerber in the 2015 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford and 2016 U.S. Open, and Garcia have been ranked as high as No. 1 and No. 4, respectively. 

Pliskova suffered her earliest loss in a Grand Slam tournament since a second-round exit at Wimbledon in 2017. She also lost early in last week's Western & Southern Open at the National Tennis Center, falling to 41st-ranked Veronika Kudermetova of Russia 7-5, 6-4 in the second round after receiving a first-round bye.

Brady and Garcia have split six career meetings. Even with a loss, Brady will rise four spots to a career-high No. 37 after the U.S. Open. 

Brady played at UCLA for two years (2014-15), helping the Bruins win the NCAA title as a freshman. In Northern California Challengers, she won the singles and doubles titles in Redding ($25,000) in 2014 at age 19 and reached the quarterfinals as the top seed in Sacramento ($60,000) in 2017, losing to defending champion Sofia Kenin.

Also in 2017, Brady advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open at age 21 and U.S. Open at 22. She became the first American female qualifier to advance to the last 16 in Melbourne in the Open Era.

Brady recorded her first two top-10 wins this year before the women's and men's tours shut down in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. As a qualifier, she knocked off No. 1 Ashleigh Barty to reach the quarterfinals in Brisbane in January and No. 6 Elina Svitolina en route to the Dubai semifinals in February. 

Bellis, 21, was playing in the U.S. Open for the first time since 2017. She defeated Tamara Korpatsch of Germany 6-7 (13), 6-3, 6-2 in the opening round for her first victory at Flushing Meadows since 2016.

Bellis first made headlines by shocking 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of the 2014 U.S. Open at 15. After climbing to No. 35 and earning WTA Newcomer of the Year honors in 2017, she underwent three operations on her right wrist and one on her right elbow in 2018-19. 

Ranked No. 860 last December, Bellis will jump 22 places to No. 166.

France's Kristina Mladenovic, seeded 30th, lost to Varvara Gracheva, a 20-year-old Russian playing in her first Grand Slam tournament, after leading 6-1, 5-1.

Mladenovic, who fell 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-0, has been exposed to compatriot Benoit Paire, who tested positive for the coronavirus and was removed from the draw before the tournament. 

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic beat Kyle Edmund, 25, of Great Britain 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in high humidity to improve to 25-0 this year and 28-0 since November.

Djokovic has won 17 Grand Slam singles titles, third behind Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (19). Neither Federer (arthroscopic knee surgery) nor defending champion Nadal (coronavirus concerns) entered the U.S. Open.

Edmund struggled with a left knee injury last year, dropping as low as No. 75 in October after reaching a career-high No. 14 in October 2018. He has fought back to No. 44.

Edmund won his second career ATP title indoors in New York in February. He reached the semifinals of the 2015 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger, losing to eventual champion John Millman; fourth round of the 2016 U.S. Open; and semifinals of the 2018 Australian Open.

Taylor Fritz, seeded 19th and ranked 25th, beat Gilles Simon, a 35-year-old Frenchman, 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 to equal his best stage in a Grand Slam tournament. 

The 22-year-old Fritz, the only American man left in the top half of the draw, is scheduled to face Canada's Denis Shapovalov, seeded 12th and ranked 17th, on Friday. 

Shapovalov, a 21-year-old left-hander, has not lost a set in two matches against Fritz, who won consecutive Northern California Challengers in Sacramento and Fairfield at 17 in 2015.

The second round in the bottom half of the men's draw is set for Thursday. Only three U.S. men remain: Frances Tiafoe, 21-year-old wild card J.J. Wolf and alternate Ernesto Escobedo. All will face higher-ranked players.

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