CiCi, Not Sabathia, Lights Up US Open; Wed. Preview
by Staff | August 27th, 2014, 12:42 am

World No. 1 Serena Williams advanced into the second round on Tuesday after defeating up-and-coming fellow American Taylor Townsend, but all eyes were on American wildcard Catherine “Cici” Bellis after the 15 year old shocked No. 12 seed and Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.
“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, who gained a wildcard into the tournament after winning the USTA Girls’ 18s National Championship. “I’m still in shock about that match.”

She became the first 15 year old in almost 20 years to win a match at the US Open since the coming-out party of Anna Kournikova at age 15, before Bellis was born.

Although Williams dismissed Townsend 6-3, 6-1, she said she was impressed with the young American’s arsenal.

“She’s incredibly talented,” Williams said. “It’s awesome for American tennis. We have such an amazing future.”

It was a banner day for the red, white and blue on the women’s side Tuesday as No. 27 seed Madison Keys beat Aussie wildcard Jarmila Gajdosova 6-0, 6-3 to move into the second round, joined by unseeded players CoCo Vandeweghe who topped Donna Vekic 2-6, 6-3, 6-1; Christina McHale who outlasted South African Chanelle Scheepers 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(5); Varvara Lepchenko who defeated Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck 7-5, 6-2; Vania King who outlasted former French Open champ Francesca Schiavone 6-3, 3-6, 6-3; Shelby Rogers who eased past qualifier Maryna Zanevska 6-4, 6-3; and wildcard Nicole Gibbs who ground down France’s Caroline Garcia 6-2, 2-6, 6-3.

Other Top 10 seeds into the second round were No. 3 Petra Kvitova rolling France’s Kristina Mladenovic 6-1, 6-0; No. 7 Eugenie Bouchard easing past Belarus’ Olga Govortsova 6-2, 6-1; and No. 8 Ana Ivanovic overpowering American Alison Riske 6-3, 6-0.

“I’m very happy with how I played,” said Kvitova, who will next meet Czech Petra Cetkovska. “There are always nerves in the first round, and I had them this morning. It was windy conditions, but it was the same for both of us. It helped my confidence that I won some matches in New Haven.”

Bouchard is looking to turn around a 1-3 record during the U.S. summer hardcourt season entering the US Open.

“The first round of a Grand Slam is never easy, so I’m happy to get a win under my belt,” Bouchard said. “I want to get on a roll and keep the momentum going.”

Additional players on the upset tip Tuesday were New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic who edged No. 20 seed and former US Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(3), and German Mona Barthel who rolled No. 32 Zhang Shuai 6-1, 6-2.

Also into the second round were seeds No. 11 Flavia Pennetta who needed three sets to defeat Julia “Gorgeous” Goerges, No. 15 Carla Suarez Navarro who beat Ajla Tomljanovic in three, No. 16 Victoria Azarenka who came from a set down to beat Misaki Doi, No. 17 Ekaterina Makarova, No. 23 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, No. 24 Samantha Stosur, No. 29 Casey Dellacqua, and No. 30 Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

The lone upset on the men’s side Tuesday was another teen breakthrough as 17-year-old qualifier Borna Coric of Croatia, the youngest player in the men’s draw, easily beat No. 29 seed Lukas Rosol 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.

“I came here and I was only thinking about getting in the main draw,” Coric said. “That was my first goal. I said to myself, ‘If I achieve that, that’s going to be perfect.’ Now actually winning [against] a guy who is Top 30 or close, it’s just unbelievable.”

Top 10-seeded men advancing Tuesday were No. 2 Roger Federer in the night session defeating Aussie Marinko Matosevic 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4); No. 4 David Ferrer beating Bosnian Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2; and No. 10 Kei Nishikori easing past American wildcard Wayne Odesnik 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.

“I’m very happy,” said Nishikori, who missed the Masters events at Toronto and Cincinnati with a toe injury. “I was playing really well, an almost perfect game. Couple of things I have to work on still, but I’m happy to win today. It’s not easy the first match after injury. I know how important this tournament is, and so hopefully I can go farther this week.”

Other seeded winners into the second round were No. 12 Richard Gasquet, No. 13 John Isner, No. 15 Fabio Fognini, No. 17 Roberto Bautista who beat Andreas Haider-Maurer 6-1 in the fifth, No. 20 Gael Monfils, No. 25 Ivo Karlovic who beat Jarkko Nieminen in four, No. 26 Gilles Simon, and No. 28 Guillermo “G-Lo” Garcia-Lopez.

Isner won in straight sets but needed two tiebreaks to dismiss NCAA singles champion Marcos Giron.

“It’s tough playing another American so early because one of us is going home,” he said. “But every time I play a younger American player, and that will happen a lot more, there’s a lot of pressure on me because I’m expected to win that match.”

The No. 28 seed Garcia-Lopez will next meet American Sam Querrey, a five-set winner over Maximo Gonzalez.

Matches to look for on Wednesday in Flushing Meadows are (6) Tomas Berdych vs. Lleyton Hewitt, (14) Marin Cilic vs. Marcos Baghdatis, (7) Grigor Dimitrov vs. Ryan Harrison, the Swiss Miss Belinda Bencic vs. (31) Kurumi Nara, and (18) Andrea Petkovic vs. the Puerto Rican riser Monica Puig.

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34 Comments for CiCi, Not Sabathia, Lights Up US Open; Wed. Preview

Michael Says:

The match between Roger and Matosevic was the pick of the day due to the execution of some outrageous shots by Roger which defied the limits of brilliance. Particularly noteworthy was that blinder lob from his back hand in the second set and also that exquisite down the line backhand shot whipped with brutal power and precision. These are some of the extraordinary shots I have seen Roger produce in his prime and he was in his prime self. Poor Matosevic played really well but could not cope up with the genius of Roger on the court and he could only helplessly nod his head with a sigh of inevitability.

Margot Says:

Women’s tennis in the US seems so full of promise. The men’s not so. Any explanation? Is the system different for women? They seem to hit the headlines much younger too.

the DA Says:

@Margot – Interesting question. I saw a theory recently which laid the blame at US coaches and their methods – namely, the lack of focus on the return game. After some consideration I had to agree it’s a big part of the issue.

Recently Sam Querrey was asked about the state of his game and he said “as long as the serve & FH are working I’m good”. And I thought: “of course, that is the US coaching tradition”. It’s also why these guys are losing early if one or the other stroke isn’t firing. You can see it in Roddick, Fish, Isner, Querrey, Harrison. Agassi was an exception.

Recently some commentator noted that the very promising Francis Tiafoe had no idea how to prepare for returns, i.e. standing upright. Hopefully all his other talents will carry him onwards but it would be tragic if that missing element (which his coaches from junior days neglected to hone) ends up impacting his career in a negative way.

Just my $0.02

Margot Says:

@ the DA
Always appreciate your $0.02 :) Cheers m’dear.
So, I presume the women aren’t subjected to the same philosophy? And of course clay, where a great many European players grew up, encourages a ROS mindset. I remember Ben telling me ages ago, that there are few clay courts in the states.
Though now, having had a thunk, there are many players coming out of East Europe with massive serves.Perhaps they followed the money and made for the States as quickly as they could?

skeezer Says:

That was solid insight on the state of american tennis.
Serve and FH and………? ROS for sure, would add defense also.

RZ Says:

@Margot – I think some of it also has to do with youngsters with natural talent choosing/not choosing tennis. For women, tennis is the most visible and lucrative professional sport. And it also is open to different heights and body types. The other options (gymnastics, basketball, beach volleyball) aren’t as lucrative and also require a certain build and genetics (height) to be played. And then there’s figure skating which isn’t so hot anymore.

For U.S. boys who have natural athletic talent, they have the option of playing basketball, football, hockey, soccer, baseball, and golf in addition to tennis. Those sports cater to different builds so a young boy with talent could theoretically pick the sport best-suited to his height and body type. And most of those sports are more lucrative than tennis, unless the have Big 4-type success.

Ben Pronin Says:

I don’t think it’s a surface issue. You have to return serve no matter where you play.

I have to agree with DA. I can think of a few American coaches I had who were and probably still are highly regarded in the community that really emphasized big strokes. Big serve, big forehand, and hopefully a competent backhand – one that should help you setup those big forehands. I’d say Querrey and Roddick are the best examples of this. Isner just has a big serve. Fish was stronger on the backhand side.

I’d actually say Blake was an exception to this. He had a decent serve, nothing special. One of the most awesome forehands you’ll ever see. And even though he had a one handed backhand, or maybe BECAUSE he had a one-handed backhand, he was actually really strong from that side. He returned serve the way I like to return serve, right on the baseline. He wasn’t the most consistent but at his best he was a fantastic all-around player.

But I also went through some Russian coaches, including my uncle, who made sure to devote time to the return. I remember my cousin would return serve right on top of the baseline while my uncle served from the service line. And it fits, too. Russian players tend to be very steady on both sides, hit the ball on the rise exceptionally well, and as a result, return well. Davydenko, Kafelnikov, even guys like Youzhny and Tursonov. All crazy but all fairly complete players (except Davydenko can’t volley to save his life).

andrea Says:

i watched the end of the match with bellis and she stood her ground with no fear. it was awesome to see. really clean, deep ball striking.

that matosevic fellow seems very volatile. needs to channel some of that negativity better. fed seemed to be having a good time. i love his tweener that hit matosevic in the butt. oops.

i like taylor townsend. she has a great presence on the court. she has game but didn’t have consistency last night. i found out that her and genie bouchard are playing doubles which will be an interesting combo.

Margot Says:

@RZ and Ben
Thanks, very interesting answers there. Ryan Harrison is different from these big servers, big forehand guys. He has a much more all round game from what I’ve seen. How did he sneak in, I wonder.

jane Says:

good point about blake, ben. his return of serve was wicked. but then blake’s career was so different from the normal trajectory of many american tennis players wasn’t it? he seemed to have his own talent and patterns and it didn’t seem down to coaching so much.

interesting discussion / question margot. very true about the american women, even though none have made quite the success of the williams sisters.

jane Says:

speaking of women’s tennis, what’s with radwanska? is she about to go out in straight sets?

RZ Says:

@Jane – Radwanska is one of the players that I hate to love. So much fun to watch her play, so much disappointment when she falls short when given a great opportunity to go deep at a slam.

jane Says:

yep: definitely disappointing rz…
just curious: which other players do you “hate to love”? :)

SG1 Says:

I do think that surface plays a role. As Skeezer said, defence is a huge part of playing today’s game. Playing red clay forces even players with big games to defend a fair portion of the time.

Look at all the top guys. They have an ability to play defensively for a while and then transition to offence when the situation permits it. Watching the Fed match last night, I mentioned to my father that the game has really changed in the last 20-25 years. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, you were either a serve and volleyer (offensive player) or a baseliner (defensive player). Today, you have to be able to do both and usually from the back of the court.

Developing a big forehand and serve are both good things. 20-25 years that may have been enough to win a major two. Today, the forest is full of players who have big serves and forehands. It’s the ones with the blend of defence and offence combined with world class athleticism that make it to the top. Says:

Good insights all round. I’d add the Venus and Serena factor, which I think is just reaping fruit now. As Townsend said yesterday, they were an inspiration and a big source of her belief.
The future of US women looks great right now. The big question is whether we will have a top 30 peppered with Americans, or if any of them will emerge as top five or dominant champions. I liked the look of Townsend a lot, but she had no answer for Serena’s power.

Kei Nishikori is the forgotten man right now, hope he can go far. Every wildcard competitor added to the late stages just ups the ante.

Yes to Fed’s BH, the commentators spoke about how much he has worked on and improved his flat down the line bh, and this could have a very good impact on his match ups with Novak and Rafa. Great to see an old dog still working on new tricks.

Great to see a lot of good players moving into the second round, setting up to be a great tourney.

SG1 Says:

For this reason, I have my doubts that Raonic will rack up majors. I’m usually wrong at predictiing these kinds of things but there has to be more to winning at the elite level than just blasting a ball.

RZ Says:

@Jane – good question. I’d have to say Tsonga, who is an exciting player but on any given day can come out completely flat; Jelena Jankovic who can be fun and do well but almost never clears that last hurdle (even though she’s one of the few players who almost always plays tough against Serena). I’d put Tommy Haas and Kei Nishikori on this list too but less based on their failing to take advantage of an opportunity and more because of the constant “injury watch.”

RZ Says:

@TennisVagabond, I’d agree with the Venus and Serena factor, but it’s odd that the success of Agassi, Sampras, Courier, and Chang didn’t have a similar result.

jane Says:

rz, yes, tsonga crossed my mind too. but for me, though i don’t quite love him, gulbis is right up there on my “hate to love” list. he’s fun to watch when he’s on, and his personality is “interesting”. i wish he could get to the top and stay there for a while. he’s a bit like a safin, a real maverick.

Polo Says:

One player who should top the list of “players I hate to love”, it must be Richard Gasquet.

jane Says:

^ yes, good call, polo. he’s on mine for sure.

is today going to be an “upset” day? f-lopez is down 2 sets and a break, sloane stephens is down a set and a break, and radwanska already lost.

Hippy Chic Says:

Andy Murray for me ATM who cant seem to hold onto a lead,and the rest of the Brits that promise so much,yet continue to dissapoint….

Hippy Chic Says:

I like Schiavone on the womens side,a player with alot of variety,and is fun to watch,her career seemed to head south after winning the FO in 2010 though….

Ben Pronin Says:

SG1, I didn’t mean that surface doesn’t play a role at all, I just meant in regards to ROS, the surface shouldn’t determine whether or not you learn how to do it well. If you can become a good or great returner on hard courts, then you’ll be even more amazing on clay. Djokovic is a great example of a guy who’s hard court game translates really well to clay primarily because of his return game.

RZ, Courier and Chang fizzled out pretty early in the 90s. But Sampras and Agassi had very broad appeal outside of the US. There’s so much of Agassi’s game in Djokovic and Murray. A lot of Sampras in Federer, obviously. I don’t know how Europeans and other nations view the Williams sisters but their whole rags-to-riches, we’re from Compton is such an American thing. It makes sense that girls look at that and say “that’s awesome, I want to be like that.”

But really I don’t think it’s fair to compare the women’s game to the men’s game. Because tennis fans generally dismiss the WTA, it’s often forgotten that women’s tennis is actually the biggest women’s sport in the world. And that still applies to the US where the popular sports like basketball and football are directed towards boys and girls partaking them is either frowned upon or discouraged all together.

RZ Says:

@Polo – yes definitely. I’d also put Gasquet in my “bad luck when it comes to watching” list. I’ve managed to see him play a couple of uninteresting matches at Indian Wells, but anytime he’s had a firecracker of a match on TV (like a couple of his 5 setters at Wimbledon), something goes wrong and I can’t watch it.

RZ Says:

@Ben – I agree re: Courier and Chang, but Chang did have somewhat of a revival later in his career when he made it all the way to number 2. I would have thought we would see more Asian or Asian-American men choose to play pro tennis. There have been a few since Chang (most notably Kei Nishikori and Paradorn Srichaphan – I miss that guy!) but no influx the way we see with African American females.

But you are absolutely right about tennis being the biggest women’s sport but down on the list for men’s sports.

Adam Says:

I first saw one of CiCi’s matches a few years back when she was thirteen and was absolutely blown away. I had never been more impressed with such a young talent as I was with her. She didn’t show anything too outstanding as far as strength and shotmaking ability (after all she was 13, but still not a particularly big or physically mature 13) however, her mentality was fricken ridiculous. I had never seen someone so tough and mentally mature and at only 13. She was tougher, more composed and made better decisions than most adults. To go with it she is also a really good athlete and does not miss. I have followed her ever since because I have no doubt that if she continues to love the game she is going to be an insanely good tennis player.

Polo Says:

I’m always happy to see Anderson win. He’s a good player who has no tics and antics.

jane Says:

i too was really pleased to see anderson come through that difficult first round match. and besides, his opponent was injured or something and very likely would’ve lost tamely or even retired next round.

also, as an aside, i like what simona halep is wearing; it suits her.

jane Says:

berdych is always so hard to judge at the slams. he cruised past hewitt today, and often he cruises in the early rounds too, but then you never know if he’s going to lose tamely against a tough upper opponent or perhaps cause an upset. his loss to cilic at wimbledon was a bit awkward; it was definitely dark, although marin was playing great on the grass, as nole soon found out!

also am very curious to see what kind of form gulbis shows here. will he lay and egg and lose first or second round or will he suddenly catch fire and plough through the draw, like at the french?

RZ Says:

Interesting note on Berdych – this is the first time in 8 years that he did not lose in the first round of one of the grand slams.

jane Says:

so far gulbis is looking very focused.

andrea Says:

sloane stephens…what has happened to you? as many have mentioned in this post, there are lots of talented young american women coming up the ranks, but sloane has regressed.

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