Round of 16. Day 4. Cici Bellis

Tennis Host Andy Taylor. Qatar Total Open 2018. Round of 16. Day-4. Cici Bellis

Tennis Host. Andy Taylor. Qatar Total Open 2018 / Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
[Q] Cici Bellis -48- (USA) def [5] Karolina Pliskova -05- (CZE) 76(4) 63

The World #48 is on fire. With her first career top-5 win, she’s through to the Quarterfinals in her Doha main-draw debut…and she had to qualify to get here. So she has five matches under her belt heading into Thursday’s Quarterfinal against Halep.

After her qualifying wins Saturday and Sunday, she overcame World #34 Daria Kasatkina on Monday, the 12-seed and World #14 Madison Keys on Wednesday, and scored the biggest win of her career in the Round of 16. Last year, the 18-year-old earned her first top-10 win, knocking Radwanska out of Dubai’s Round of 16. Clearly she’s comfortable playing in the Persian Gulf, and may have to consider real-estate at the Pearl.

Next Up: World #2 and Australian Open Finalist Simona Halep

Athletes punish themselves training for these moments: To take on the world’s top-ranked players. After besting top-5 Pliskova at Karolina’s own power game, the young American will get her first stab at the World #2 Simona Halep. The 2014 Doha Champion insists she’s still suffering foot and ankle trouble after her grueling run to the Australian Open Final. That said, Halep has moved well and had little trouble with her first two opponents, Ekaterina Makarova and World #15 Anastasija Sevastova.

Karolina Pliskova. A lingering illness

Pliskova can’t cut a break. The defending Doha Champion was sick in Asia a few months back and came down with a bug again just before the Czech Fed Cup win over the weekend, where she didn’t participate. After a Semifinal run in Brisbane and Quarterfinal finish in Melbourne, the Round of 16 Doha exit sucks. But staying healthy is an important aspect of the game.

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 reached the Semi’s again in Stanford. By August, she reached a career-high ranking of #35 in the world, earning the distinction of Newcomer of the Year. As a qualifier, she’s won 4 straight matches – including a win over World #14 Madison Keys – to reach today’s Round of 16. From the United States – Please welcome, Cici Bellis

Karolina Pliskova

At 25-years-old, she is your defending Qatar Total Open Champion. Last year, after her victory here in Doha, she went on to reach the French Open Semifinals for the first time, won the title in Eastborne, and became the #1 Player in the World. A Grand Slam Finalist, she reached the championship match of the 2016 US Open, defeating World #1 Serena Williams in the Semifinal; and now owns 9 career WTA Singles title in all. A 2-time Fed Cup Champion, she’s earned a spot in the WTA Finals Singapore two years running, and reached the Semifinals of the year-end championship back in November. Here in Doha for the 5th time, from the Czech Republic – Please welcome 2017 Qatar Total Open Champion and the #5 Player in the World, Karolina Pliskova