Friday, October 23, 2020

Bellis linked to Evert in rout of former No. 5 Errani

CiCi Bellis, 21, thrashed 33-year-old Sara Errani, formerly ranked
No. 5 in singles and No. 1 in doubles, 6-0, 6-3 today in Macon, Ga.
Bellis won the first nine games. 2018 photo by Mal Taam
   Before multiple surgeries derailed CiCi Bellis' career, her former coach compared her to Jennifer Capriati.
   Veteran commentator Ken Thomas paid Bellis, a 21-year-old San Francisco native who grew up down the peninsula in Atherton, another tremendous compliment today.
   "I see a little Chris Evert in CiCi Bellis — quality groundstrokes," Thomas declared on the live stream of Bellis' 6-0, 6-3 thrashing of Sara Errani, formerly ranked No. 5 in singles and No. 1 in doubles, today in the quarterfinals of the $80,000 Mercer Tennis Classic in Macon, Ga. "For American women's tennis, it's really good to see Bellis playing like this."
   Earlier, sixth-seeded Marta Kostyuk, 18, of Ukraine, routed top-seeded Misaki Doi of Japan 6-2, 6-1 in 1 hour, 23 minutes in a matchup of the only remaining singles seeds.      Bellis, a wild card now based at the USTA National Campus outside of Orlando, Fla., had more firepower than the unseeded Errani, a 33-year-old Italian counterpuncher ranked No. 137, in the 65-minute match.
   Playing almost flawlessly, the petite, 5-foot-7 (1.68-meter) Bellis reeled off the first seven points and the opening nine games in her first meeting with the 5-foot-5 (1.64-meter) Errani, the runner-up to Maria Sharapova in the 2012 French Open. Bellis then lost two consecutive games before breaking serve for 4-2. Both players held serve from there.
   Granted, the Mercer Tennis Classic is a minor-league tournament, but Bellis reached her first semifinal since the 2017 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, a five-minute drive from her childhood home, on the WTA Tour. She reached a career-high No. 35 two weeks later at 18 and was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year for 2017. 
   But slugging it out against older, bigger players at the top level of women's tennis took a massive toll on Bellis. She underwent three operations on her right wrist and one on her right elbow in 2018-19 and missed 19 months.     
   Errani, meanwhile, had her own troubles. She was suspended for two months in 2017 after failing a drug test, and the suspension was lengthened to 10 months in 2018. Errani claimed that she accidentally consumed her mother's cancer medication in homemade tortellini.
   Bellis, who's projected to rise at least 15 places to No. 158 on Monday, has an excellent chance in Saturday's semifinals against another accomplished veteran, weary qualifier Varvara Lepchenko. The 34-year-old American left-hander from Uzbekistan outlasted Sachia (pronounced SAH-shuh) Vickery, a 25-year-old Miramar, Fla., native, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 in 3 hours, 15 minutes.
   That wasn't even Lepchenko's longest match of the tournament. She edged second-seeded Nina Stojanovic of Serbia 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (6) in 3 hours, 33 minutes in the opening round on Wednesday.
   Bellis is 1-1 against Lepchenko, ranked No. 186 after climbing as high as No. 19 in 2012. Bellis prevailed 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (5) in the second round of her comeback tournament in Houston, a $125,000 event, on hardcourts as a qualifier last November, and Lepchenko coasted 6-3, 6-2 in the Rabat (Morocco) quarterfinals on clay in 2017.
   Both Lepchenko and Vickery have starred in NorCal, albeit at different levels. Lepchenko advanced to two semifinals (2014 and 2015) and one quarterfinal (2013) at Stanford. Vickery reached the singles semifinals and teamed with countrywoman Madison Brengle to win the doubles title in last year's $60,000 Berkeley Challenger. 
   Doi, a 5-foot-3 (1.59-meter) left-hander, was coming off a physically and mentally draining 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3), 6-1 victory over qualifier Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay in 3 hours, 9 minutes on Thursday. Cepede Royg served for the match at 6-5 in the second set. 
   Kostyuk, meanwhile, has lost an average of only four games in her three matches this week.
   Both Kostyuk and Doi lost to eventual champion Naomi Osaka in three sets in the recent U.S. Open, Kostyuk in the third round and Doi in the first round.
   Kostyuk, ranked No. 113, will meet Poland's Magdalena Frech, a qualifier ranked No. 165, for the first time on Saturday. Frech, 22, beat unseeded American Francesca Di Lorenzo 7-5, 6-3. 
   Both singles semifinals are scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. PDT with thunderstorms forecast to strike as early as 9 a.m. The doubles final, also featuring Frech, will follow, weather permitting.
   The unseeded team of Frech and compatriot Katarzyna Kawa dispatched top-seeded Caroline Dolehide and Caty McNally of the United States 6-4, 6-3. Frech and Kawa will play the unseeded pair of Di Lorenzo and countrywoman Jamie Loeb, who nipped second-seeded Doi and Stojanovic 1-6, 6-3 [10-8].
   ATP Challenger Tour — Qualifier Mackenzie McDonald, another San Francisco Bay Area product now based at the USTA National Campus, lost to unseeded Martin Klizan, a former top-25 player from Slovakia, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the $104,160 Istanbul Challenger on hardcourts.
   The diminutive McDonald, who was born and raised in Piedmont, advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2018 and climbed as high as No. 57 in April last year. However, he tore a right hamstring tendon during a doubles match the following month in the French Open, had surgery in June and sat out for the rest of the season. He is projected to rise 14 places to No. 209 on Monday.
   Klizan won the 2006 French Open boys singles title and reached a career-high No. 24 in 2015 before battling injuries. The 31-year-old left-hander will improve at least 13 spots to No. 155. 
   ATP Tour — Raven Klaasen and Ben McLachlan (University of California, Berkeley, 2011-14), playing in their first tournament together, defeated Max Purcell and Luke Saville 7-5, 6-4 to reach the final in Cologne, Germany.
   Purcell and Saville, the 2011 Wimbledon boys singles champion, reached the Australian Open final early this year, losing to American Rajeev Ram, now a volunteer assistant coach at Cal, and Great Britain's Joe Salisbury
   Saville and Hans Hach Verdugo of Mexico won the 2018 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger as qualifiers in their first tournament together.  
   Klaasen, 38, of South Africa and Ben McLachlan, a 28-year-old New Zealand native who plays for his mother's native Japan, will play either third seeds and two-time reigning French Open champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies of Germany or unseeded Marcus Daniell of New Zealand and Philipp Oswald of Austria on Sunday.
   Daniell and Oswald ousted top-seeded Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Marcelo Melo of Brazil 6-2, 4-6 [10-3].
   Klaasen seeks his 17th ATP doubles title and McLachlan his sixth.

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