Cici Bellis: Another American Teen causing a stir at her first US Open - UBITENNIS
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Cici Bellis: Another American Teen causing a stir at her first US Open

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TENNIS US OPEN – Fifteen year old Cici Bellis caused a major upset on Tuesday by knocking out 12th seed Dominika Cibulkova. The teenager has made it publicly known that she is not going “pro” just yet and so will not be accepting the $60, 420 in prize money for this 1st round victory. Is it the right choice? From New York, Cordell Hackshaw

 

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It seems like every year when the USTA gives out their wildcards for the US Open main draw to the talented lot of young American players, amongst them is one who makes a major splash at the tournament. This year, it appears as though 15-year-old Catherine Cartan “Cici” Bellis is that player. She came into this tournament a virtual unknown to most tennis fans. Last year, she lost in the 3rd round of the Juniors to the eventual champion, Ana Konjuh. However, this year, she knocked out 12th seed and 2014 Australian Open finalist, Dominika Cibulkova in 6-1 4-6 6-4 in the first round of the main draw. Yet, this is not the biggest byline of this story. Bellis has made it publicly known that she is not going “pro” just yet and so will not be accepting the $60, 420 in prize money for this 1st round victory.

Since the Australian Open, Cibulkova has been struggling to find that form to be a major contender. She has played poorly at most of the regular tour tournaments and lost in the 3rd round at both the French Open and Wimbledon. Coming into the US Open, Cibulkova won only a single match at the four US Open Series tournaments she played. Although Bellis’ father, Gordon Bellis, stated that the plan for her in this first round encounter was not to lose “double bagels,” tennis fans knew that Cibulkova was susceptible to an early upset. The young American broke Cibulkova to open the match and never looked back for the rest of the set taking it 6-1 in 23 minutes. In the 2nd set, Cibulkova gained control early when she led 4-2. Bellis battled back to level it at 4-4 but Cibulkova lifted her game again to close out the set 6-4 and thus level the match.

One expected Bellis to shrink under the pressure but she persevered. She came back from an early break in the set to lead 5-4. Cibulkova serving to stay in the match could not come up with the goods. Bellis broke Cibulkova to take the match 6-1 4-6 6-4 in an hour and 43 minutes. “I went into the match thinking it was going to be such a great experience, but I never thought I would come out on top winning,” said Bellis after the match.

The young American players who have all made a splash at the Open over the past few years have all benefited from numerous sponsors and endorsements but Bellis would not be one of those. “I think I’m definitely going to stay an amateur right now to keep my options open for college, in case an injury or something happens. But I’d love to be a pro one day.” According to Mr. Bellis, a college education is really important to the family and this was something that was decided amongst them all. On initial glance, this might seem like a strange decision as tennis has a long history of young tennis stars several of whom are the sport’s greats. However, in recent times, this has become less of an occurrence. Consider that on the ATP, Nick Kyrgios is the only teenager in the top 100. On the women’s side, it has been the tour veterans who are dominating at the big tournaments, Maria Sharapova, Li Na, Flavia Pennetta. Serena Williams, the current world’s number 1 is 32 years old, soon to be 33 in September.

Several years ago, the WTA put in place a very strict and detailed age limit on tour. Players have to be 18 years or older in order to be fully on the tour and cannot join the tour until they are 14. The young players are limited to a handful number of tournaments and have to qualify rightly or gain a wildcard which is also regulated. This has greatly reduced the ability for most of these young players to gain any real foothold on the tour. Even if they are winning, it is virtually impossible for them to maintain the ranking and move up high as the number of points they are able to earn is also limited. Therefore, those initial lucrative sponsors and endorsement will soon dry up when the good results and ranking do not materialize. These young players then soon find themselves facing mounting bills and difficulties breaking even whilst traversing this global sport. The pressure to produce often times become too much. Consider the case of Melanie Oudin and her magical 2009 US Open run at 17. Since then, she has yet to win a tour title and has only won 4 matches at the majors. She lost in qualifications this year.

With this in mind, Bellis’ opting to forgo this early professional route and to stick to playing junior tennis and concentrate on school, is far more sound than senseless. She is being home-schooled so as to have more practice time. According to her father, Bellis is extremely driven about her tennis career and holds very strong opinions on the matter. He however, feels that at this time, there are more important things than the potential money she can make. He noted that there are many cases of young tennis “phenoms” burning out early and also the emotional turmoil between them and their parents. Both he and his wife, Lori Bellis, are trying to prevent any of these issues from affecting their only child. Nonetheless, Bellis is only 15 years old and there is still about 3 years before she can become a full tour member and also before entering college. That is a lot of time for things to change. Bellis will next play Zarina Diyas for a place in the 3rd round.

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Rebecca Peterson beats Heather Watson in Tianjin final to claim her second career title

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Rebecca Peterson clinched her second career title after beating Heather Watson 6-4 6-4 in the final of the Tianjin Open.

 

The Swedish player claimed her second title on Chinese soil after winning her maiden WTA maiden title in Nanchang. Earlier this week Peterson beat Venus Williams in the opening round.

Watson entered the Tianjin Open with just one WTA-level win in the opening round at Wimbledon. The British player beat Wang Qiang and Bronx champion Magda Linette en route to the final in Tianjin.

The final between Peterson and Watson was moved to an indoor facility after a five-hour delay due to rain.

Peterson rallied from 0-2 down in both sets en route to winning the final 6-4 6-4 after 1 hour and 37 minutes. The Swede converted on four of her ten break points.

Watson fended off two break points and earned a break in the next game to take a 2-0 lead. Peterson converted her fourth break-back point chance in the third game. Both players stayed neck and neck to draw level to 4-4.

Peterson earned another break in the ninth game when Watson sent her backhand drive volley wide. Peterson sealed the opening set 6-4 with a forehand down the line winner in the 10th game.

Watson held at love in the first game of the second set and broke serve in the second game. Peterson got the break back in the third game and took the lead with another break with a forehand down the line winner. The Swedish player held her next three service games and closed out the match with a forehand winner in the 10th game.

Thanks to this win Peterson will break into the top 50 reaching her career high of 44 in the WTA Ranking. Former world number 38 Watson will make her return in the top 100.

 

 

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Coco Gauff claims her maiden WTA title in Linz at the age of 15

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Fifteen year-old US rising star Coco Gauff claimed the maiden WTA title of her career beating former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 1-6 6-2 in the final of the Upper Austria Ladies in Linz (Austria).

 

Gauff crowned a remarkable week, in which she came back from losing the final qualifying round to win the first title of her carerer as a lucky loser. Earlier this week the US teenager claimed her first-ever top 10 win over Dutch star Kiki Bertens in her first WTA quarter final.

Gauff saved two break points in her opening service game, before breaking serve in the third game. She consolidated the break with an ace to open up a 3-0 lead. Ostapenko won her first game with a backhand down the line. Gauff did not face any more break points in the next games and earned a set point at 5-3 with an ace and hit a backhand slice to close out the opening set.

Ostapenko saved a break point in the first game of the second set with a forehand down the line before breaking serve for the first time at love. Gauff broke straight back in the next game, but Ostapenko hit a volley to get another break for 3-1. The Latvian player built up a 5-1 lead with a double break and sealed the second set with an ace on her first set point to force the match to the third set.

Gauff claimed an early break at the start of the third set to take a 2-0 lead after a backhand forced an error from Ostapenko on break point. Gauff went up a double break to race out to a 4-0 lead and earned two match points at 5-0. Ostapenko got one break back at love in the seventh game to claw her way back to 2-5. Gauff earned a third match point after Ostapenko netted a backhand and sealed the win, as Ostapenko fired a forehand long.

Gauff is projected to reach the top 75 of the WTA Ranking on Monday after starting her season ranked world number 600. She has become the youngest singles champion since Nicole Vaidisova lifted titles at Vancouver and Tashkent at the age of 15 in 2004.

Gauff is the second player in the last two seasons to win a maiden WTA singles season as a lucky loser equalling teenager Olga Danilovic, who won the Moscow Open last year.

 

 

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Coco Gauff reaches her maiden WTA final at the age of 15 in Linz

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US 15-year-old sensation Coco Gauff cruised past German former top 10 player Andrea Petkovic 6-4 6-4 after 91 minutes to reach her maiden WTA singles final at the Upper Austria Ladies Open in Linz.   

 

Gauff lost in the final round of the qualifying tournament but she claimed her spot in the main draw as a lucky loser. After entering the main draw as a lucky loser Gauff scored three wins over Stefanie Voegele, Kateryna Kozlova, Kiki Bertens and Andrea Petkovic  consolidating her spot in the top 100.

Gauff saved nine of the ten break points she faced and won 71 % of her second serve points.

Petkovic earned the first break of the match in Gauff’s opening game, but Gauff broke straight back in the second game with a passing shot down the line in the next game. After holding serve Gauff earned two break points. The US teenager broke serve in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead after a backhand error from Perkovic. Gauff earned three set points in the 10th game and converted her first chance after a netted return from Petkovic.

Gauff faced three break points at 2-1, but she held on her serve to draw level to 2-2. The US player converted her sixth break point chance to take a 3-2 lead after a double fault from Petkovic.

Gauff saved two break points with a volley and a drop-shot, when she served for the match at 5-4, and sealed the win on her second match point.

Gauff set up a final against 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko, who came back from one set down to beat last year’s Linz finalist Ekaterina Alexandrova 1-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-5. Ostapenko fended off one match points at 6-5 in the second set and two more match points at 5-4 in the third set of the 2-hour and 21-minute match.

Alexandrova broke serve twice in the second and sixth games to take the opening set 6-1. The Russian player fired an ace on her second set point to seal the first set after 30 minutes.

Alexandrova went up an early break to build up a 3-1 lead. Ostapenko broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Alexandrova fended off three break points to draw level to 4-4. Alexandrova broke serve at love to take a 5-4 lead earning the chance to serve for the match. Alexandrova hit an ace to earn her first match point, but she did not convert her chance, as she sent her backhand long. Ostapenko broke serve to draw level to 5-5 setting up a tie-break. Ostapenko earned her first set point at 5-5 in the tie-break, as Alexandrova missed a forehand wide. Ostapenko sealed the second set to force the match to the third set, as Ostapenko fired a service return wide.

Both players traded breaks in the first and second games of the decisive set. Alexandrova fired a forehand crosscourt winner in the 10th game to earn two match points, but she made unforced errors to miss both her chances. Ostapenko hit a forehand winner to draw level to 5-5. Alexandrova saved a match point at 6-5 with a return winner, but Ostapenko sealed the win on her second match point.

 

 

 

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