|CiCi Bellis preparing to serve in the first round of the Midland|
$100,000. © Jonathan Kelley, On the Rise
In front of a crowd measuring well over 1000 fans, the 16-year-old Bellis used her forehand to control the action, and didn't let Maria's consistent, wicked backhand slice disrupt what she wanted to do. After the match, Bellis noted that her new coach Lisa Raymond, had played Maria before and who was able to feed her lots of "unbelievable" slice backhands in their practice earlier that day. "It's really good to have a coach who has been there, at the highest level, and who has faced some of the players I'm facing." Prior to her retirement last year, Raymond had a 2-0 record against Maria, both doubles matches.
Bellis started the match slowly, going down 0-2* with Maria serving at 40-15. But then Bellis' groundstrokes started to connect, and she reeled off 4 games in a row to take control of the set. Although she played a tight game to get broken serving for the first set at 5*-4, she showed some serious maturity in the very next game, breaking right back and held in her next game to seal the first set.
|Tatjana Maria. © Jonathan Kelley, On the Rise|
Just when things looked bleakest, Maria started going for more, and won a couple of multiple deuce games to even the set at 3-3. At this point it seemed like the tide had perhaps turned: Bellis wasn't the aggressor anymore, and shots that had been hitting the lines started floating long. Fans were getting excited at the prospect of a third set. But Bellis had other ideas. "I just told myself I was winning because I was dictating, so just go back to that." Perhaps not coincidentally, Maria's game, which had come to life a few games prior, suddenly sputtered. Bellis started returning better, Maria threw in a couple of double faults, and just like that it was winner: Bellis (USA).
Teen Sensation @cicibellis99 talking with the media after her 7-5, 6-3 win over @Maria_Tatjana at the #DCTC pic.twitter.com/xQffKdTNcI— DCTC 2016 (@DCTCPROTennis) February 3, 2016
Bellis is still limited in the number of tournaments she can play due to age restrictions. But in planning her schedule, she said that because she was injured for part of last year, the WTA will allow her to play a few additional tournaments in 2016. (She also noted that despite what the post-match interviewer said, she is still an amateur, and will be keeping college as an option for as long as she can.)
The win guaranteed an American finalist from the bottom half of a draw that has 26 Americans out of 32 total main draw players.
Center court is being streamed all week at https://www.usta.com/Pro-Tennis/Pro-Circuit/2016_pro_circuit_womens_live_streaming/.
For the full draws, order of play, and more, visit the tournament website at http://www.dowcorningtennisclassic.com/.