Sports

Atherton's Bellis beats sixth seed, advances to second round

 

Atherton's Catherine 'CiCi' Bellis, overcome by blissful emotion, nearly broke down as she addressed the crowd at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Center after beating sixth-seeded Jelena Ostapenko, 6-4, 6-4, on Tuesday night in a first round match of the Bank of the West Classic.

Some of what she said was unclear, though she did slow down enough to make sure the 1,483 fans on hand heard "Thank you so much for being here to support me. I love you all very much."

With that, she earned yet another loud ovation. After playing in the heat of Stockton, before a sparse crowd, the cool night air and the enthusiastic response must have been something special.

Bellis, who is ranked No. 203, also announced she was ready to commit to Stanford once she gets her SAT scores, which she expects within the week.

"This is the only college I've ever really looked at," Bellis said. "I love the girls on the team. I live, literally, five minutes from here. I love this tournament so much. This is my home tournament."

Committing to Stanford and actually playing for the Cardinal may be two different things. Bellis, in her final year of home-schooling before college, said she will continue to play tournaments to improve her ranking. If it gets high enough, she may turn pro before hitting a ball for Stanford.

Bellis figured she might have known at least half the people in the stands.

"I had the craziest people text me and tell me they were going to be here," Bellis said. "I heard from people I haven't seen since juniors 10 years ago. It meant so much to get their texts."

Bellis nearly didn't get a chance to play after suffering a contusion in her left eye when she was hit by a fierce drive off the racket of Ukraine's Olga Savchuk during her doubles match Monday.

"It was actually one of the scariest moments of my life," Bellis said. "My eye swelled up so much I thought I was blind for a few seconds."

She was examined by medical staff on court but resumed play and was able to finish. Bellis was also given tests to determine if she suffered a concussion.

"It was the worst headache I've ever had," she said. "I went to my eye doctor this morning and he said it was just a contusion. He's going to look at it again Wednesday. The pain just stopped. What I was going through the last 24 hours, I had to have some good Karma on my side."

The 38th-ranked Ostapenko, who will represent Latvia in the Rio Olympics, played for the first time at Stanford, and by the sound of it, may not return any time soon.

"It was a matter of conditions here," she said. "Everything was so weird for here. It was no good for me. We were using Penn balls, so hard and so different. I don't find them nice for me. I just played one of my worst matches this year. That was the difference."

Bellis, who lost to Ostapenko at last year's US Open (using Wilson balls) had a better understanding of the difference.

"I just played a little more consistently than she did," said Bellis, who improved to 3-2 against Top 50 players.

Bellis recorded one ace but also suffered just one double fault. Ostapenko recorded nine double faults, seven in the second set. An inefficient 29 percent of second serve points won was her downfall as Bellis rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the second set.

Bellis meets American Sacha Vickery in a second round match to be played Thursday. Vickery beat Bulgaria's Elitsa Kostova, 6-1, 6-2, on Tuesday.

Bellis topped Vickery, 6-4, 6-0, at the Stockton Challenger last week.

In other first-round matches, Alison Riske edged No. 8 seed Varvara Lepchenko, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), in a match between Americans; USA's Julia Boserup downed China's Naomi Osaka, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4; Urzula Radwanska of Poland bettered Ukroanie's Kateryna Bondarenko, 6-4, 7-5; and Poland's Magda Linette defeated Czech Republic's Kristyna Pliskova, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5.

In doubles, Johanna Konta of Great Britain and Maria Sanchez, a USC grad, defeated China's Xinyun Han and Chen Liang, 7-5, 7-6; Americans Asia Muhammad and Taylor Townsend downed Japan's Misaki Doi and Nao Hibino, 6-2, 2-6, 12-10; and China's Yifan Xu and Saisai Zheng beat Yuliya Beygelzimer of Ukraine and Kristyna Pliskova of Czech Republic, 7-5, 6-1.

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