Sports

Cinderella run by Atherton's Bellis ends at the US Open

 

The clock struck 12 for Atherton teen CiCi Bellis on Thursday night, ruining her evening at the US Open ball at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.

While the 15-year-old, dubbed America's sweetheart after becoming the first player in 18 years to win a US Open match earlier this week, is done, there's plenty of reason to hang around.

Bellis also will be playing in the US Open Junior girls' tournament that starts Monday, when the world's No. 2-ranked junior should be a top-two seed.

Bellis, of course, would rather be exchanging ground strokes with the world's best. That opportunity ended, however, in a 6-3, 0-6, 6-2 loss to world No. 48 Zarina Diyas, the top-ranked player in Kazakhstan.

Bellis, who is ranked 1,208th and playing in her first tour-level event, won seven games in a row during one stretch.

"Maybe it didn't turn out how I wanted it to, but thank you, everybody, for coming out and watching," Bellis told the overflowing and wildly supportive crowd in an on-court interview. "It was amazing. I mean, I never thought I'd be here."

Bellis earned a wild-card invitation from the U.S. Tennis Association by winning the USTA Girls' 18s National Championship, the youngest to do since Lindsay Davenport also won it at 15 in 1991.

Tuesday, Bellis grabbed national headlines by surprisingly eliminating 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova, the runner-up at the Australian Open in January and last year's champion at the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.

Beating Cibulkova made the home-schooled Bellis the youngest player to win in New York since Anna Kournikova in 1996. And, an instant media star.

"This whole thing has been such a great experience," Bellis said.

After playing her Tuesday match on a back court without TV, Bellis took to Court 17 on Thursday and played under the lights in front of a sold-out crowd of 2,800 and a live broadcast on ESPN2.

Bellis fell behind quickly at 2-0 and was broken again to trail at 5-3 before dropping the first set.

The second set was different as Bellis showed the fire she had in Tuesday's match. That carried over into the deciding third set, where Bellis grabbed a 1-0 lead. But, things turned quickly on her as the 20-year-old Diyas, in her 10th Grand Slam match, took control and led at 4-1. Bellis finished with 54 unforced errors.

"It was a very though match," said Diyas, who improved to 13-3 in three-setters in 2014. "CiCi has great potential. I think experience helped me, especially in the third set. I just tried to stay focused on my game."

Elsewhere on Thursday, former Stanford standout and two-time NCAA singles champion Nicole Gibbs advanced to the third round by beating 23rd-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3.

Gibbs, who is now guaranteed a minimum payout of $105,090, meets Italy's Flavia Pennetta, the No. 11 seed, in a third-round match on Saturday. Gibbs, ranked No. 135 in the world, has won four ITF events since turning pro in June of last year.

A year ago at the U.S. Open, Gibbs lost to Pennetta in the first round, 6-0, 6-2. Pennetta went on to reach the semifinals.

— US Open.org/Palo Alto Online Sports

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