Round 1. Day 1. Cici Bellis

Tennis Emcee Andy Taylor. Qatar Total Open 2018. Round-1. Day-1. Cici Bellis

Tennis Emcee. Andy Taylor. Qatar Total Open 2018 / Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Cici Bellis -48- (USA) def Daria Kasatkina -24- (RUS) 75 41 (ret)

The top qualifying seed in Doha, Cici Bellis could care less if she was just one slot away from direct entry into the main draw. Her qualifying victories over Qatar’s Mubaraka Al-Naimi and Russia’s Sofya Zhuk gave her valuable time on court; valuable because the new “blue” surface at Khalifa is playing faster than in years past. From St. Petersburg to last weekend’s Fed Cup Ties, all the events leading into Doha were played indoors. Qualifiers have the edge.

Cici dismantles an agressive top-25 opponent

Daria Kastakina is tough. Last year, at just 19-years-old, she defeated World #1 Angelique Kerber in Sydney, then dismissed the top-ranked German again to reach Doha’s Quarterfinals.

Now 20, on Monday the World #24 got a taste of her own venom from 18-year-old Cici Bellis. The two traded breaks after the first changeover, then again after the third sit-down. Set-1 turned into an prize-fight down the stretch, with exhausting rallies punctuated by piercing winners from both. At 5-all, Bellis came back from a 15-40 deficit to hold, then used her momentum to steal the set with a break. She had some help, though. Kasatkina handed-over the first set by sending two forehands long.

Bellis. A Pain in the Neck for the Russian

Set-1 left Kasatkina hurting. Bellis won the first three games in the second; Daria called the trainer to the court. After a medical time-out and five minute neck massage, Kasatkina earned one hold before retiring down 1-4.

Up Next: US Open Finalist Madison Keys

Cici and Madison train together in Florida. Essentially, they’re in Doha with the same team. While they’ve never played a competitive Tour-level match, they know each other’s game very well. A top-15 victory would be a huge boost for Bellis, who hasn’t faced this level of talent since her big wins last Summer over World #14 Petra Kvitova in Stanford and World #8 Svetlana Kuznetsova at the Rogers Cup.

Cici Bellis

At just 18-years-old, she is the youngest player ranked inside the top-50 on the WTA Tour. Last year, she piled up the career-firsts, earning her first two top-10 wins, defeating World #6 Agnieszka Radwanska in Dubai and World #8 Svetlana Kuznetsova in Toronto. In May, she cracked the top-50 for the first time, reached the 3rd-Round at Roland Garros, went on to reach her first career tour-level Semifinal in Mallorca, then repeated the feat over the Summer in Stanford. By August, she reached a career-high ranking of #35 in the world, earning the distinction of Newcomer of the Year. 3-years-ago, at just 15-years-old and playing in only her 13th professional match, she upset Dominika Cibulkova to become the youngest American to win a match at the US Open in 28-years. Competing in the main draw of the Qatar Total Open for the first time, from the United States – Please welcome, Cici Bellis

Daria Kasatkina

Last year, this 20-year-old powerhouse started the season by earning her first career victory over a World #1, defeating Angelique Kerber in Sydney. A month later, she upset Keber again right here in Doha, reaching the Quarterfinals for the first time. She’d go on to win her first WTA Singles title in Charleston, upset World #2 Simona Halep in Wuhan, reach her 2nd career Final in Moscow, and finish the year ranked inside the top-25 for the first time. Last week, she was at it again in St. Petersburg, defeating World #1 and Australian Open Champion Caroline Wozniacki to reach the Semifinals. Competing in her 3rd Qatar Total Open, from Russia – Please welcome the World #24, Daria Kasatkina