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WTA Tennis News – Bellis Loves Doha! She Stuns 2017 Champ Pliskova

Catherine Bellis of US in action against Simona Halep of Romania during their quarter finals match at the WTA Qatar Ladies Open tennis tournament at the International Khalifa Tennis Complex in Doha, Qatar, 16 February 2018. EPA-EFE/NOUSHAD THEKKAYIL



By Richard Pagliaro


Empowered by savvy combinations and jolting speed around the court, CiCi Bellis continues to downsize dangerous power players in Doha.

The 18-year-old American qualifier defused defending Doha champion Karolina Pliskova, 7-6 (4), 6-3, scoring the biggest victory of her career and charging into the Qatar Total Open quarterfinals.

The high-energy teenager was in no mood for hero worship against the 2016 US Open finalist she calls one of her idols. Bellis barely looked fazed breaking the WTA ace leader’s serve five times in a one hour, 36-minute conquest.

“It’s huge,” Bellis said afterward. “I think I played a really good match trying to track down as many balls as I could. Obviously, I watched her play for so many years—she’s one of my idols for sure. Awesome I got through. I was just trying to play as smart as I could with big targets. It worked out well for me.”

It’s the fifth straight win for Bellis, who will face second-seeded Simona Halep for a semifinal spot.

The 2014 champion converted her fourth match point in magical style spooning a running drop shot winner to stop Anastasija Sevastova, 6-4, 6-3, in 65 minutes. Halep can regain the world No. 1 ranking if Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki fails to reach the quarterfinals.

“I think Simona is obviously playing really good tennis, she’s been number in the world, I just want to go out and enjoy it,” Bellis told beIn Sports Network’s Prakash Amritraj afterward. “I’m playing so well now. I just want to go out and enjoy it. I came on court today I had so much energy I could have played 10 more sets if I wanted to.”

It is Bellis’ first Top 5 victory and marks the second day in a row she stunned a former US Open finalist.

In an all-American clash yesterday, Bellis burst through 10 of the final 11 games subduing sometime practice partner and US Open finalist Madison Keys, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0. Keys withdrew from Dubai today due to illness.

Facing Keys’ serve yesterday helped Bellis read and react to Pliskova’s explosive serve today.

Pliskova dished out breadsticks to Bellis in a Brisbane blow-out last month.

The 5’7″ teenager turned the tables today absorbing the Czech’s power on the rise, crafting some confounding angles and managing both the score and court shrewdly. Pliskova doubled Bellis’ error output (53 to 26) and looked physically drained by the end of the match.

“I was definitely playing pretty well,” Bellis said. “I knew it was gonna be tough going in because I played her earlier and she killed me. So I tried to be focused from point one.”

The pair traded breaks at the outset. Bellis made the fifth-seeded Czech work for every service point. Pliskova decelerated on a second serve as Bellis broke for a third time for 5-4.

Serving for the set at the 44-minute mark, Bellis could not close. Three unforced errors, including a leaping forehand into the net, saw the Californian give back the break in the 10th game.

Typically efficient on serve, the WTA ace leader struggled to sustain serve. Shrugging off her lapse, Bellis broke right back—her fourth break of the day—for 6-5.

Driving the ball deep down the middle, Pliskova forced an errant backhand scoring the eighth break of the set to force the tie break.

A backhand down the line clipped the top of the tape and crawled over giving the Czech the mini break and a 2-0 tiebreak lead. Pliskova did not take advantage of that good fortune, missing the mark on a forehand down the line.

Defending with determination, Bellis took advantage of attack opportunities. Guiding a fine forehand volley into the corner, Bellis got even at 3-3. When Pliskova scattered her sixth double fault long, Bellis was two points from the set at 5-4.

Engaging the Czech in a backhand-to-backhand rally, Bellis drew the two-hander error—Pliskova’s 30th error of the set— for set point.

The defending champion sprayed a wild forehand wide as Bellis seized a one-set lead after one hour of play.

While Pliskova looked listless after spraying 31 unforced errors in the set, Bellis dug in with defense and consistency draining errors for a love hold to start the second set.

Carving out a short-angled return, Bellis dragged Pliskova into her backhand corner, danced around a mid-court ball and spun a forehand winner down the line breaking for 4-2.

A confident Bellis mixed the depth and height of her shots to displace the 6′ Czech from the center of the court and make her bend. Hugging the baseline, Bellis zapped an inside-out forehand capping a love hold for 5-2.

Serving for the quarterfinals, Bellis blasted an ace to open, then tossed up a high lob that bamboozled her opponent into bungling a smash.

Bellis bolted a backhand down the line closing a confident upset that sent her into her first quarterfinal since Stanford last summer when she swept another powerful Czech, Petra Kvitova, to reach the semifinals.

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