Catherine Bellis is on the fast lane to global fame. Not long ago the American teenager was playing on the college circuit for Stanford but an impressive run of results meant she turned professional after the 2016 US Open.
The world first noticed Bellis though at the US Open in 2014, when as a 15-year-old prodigy, she stunned Dominika Cibulkova. Since then her career has taken an upward swing.
Bellis ended the 2016 season as the youngest face inside the Top 100, while in 2017 she walked away with WTA’s Newcomer of The Year award. Currently ranked 48, Bellis came through the qualifiers to make it to the main draw of the Qatar Open Total.
Yesterday she continued her impressive run at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex as she knocked out compatriot 12th seed Madison Keys 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 to enter the Round of 16. In the first round she had it easy when Russian World No. 24 Daria Kasatakina retired after injuring her neck while trailing 7-5, 4-1.
But against last year’s US open finalist Keys, Bellis had to fight back from a set down. Playing her fourth match on the faster outside courts of Doha, with wind behind her back, Bellis got better as the match went on.
As Keys’ game floundered, Bellis grew in confidence, wrapping up the third set in no time. “I think maybe halfway into the second set it started shifting a bit. I got a little lucky on a few balls the wind took, and I think she shanked a few,” Bellis said after the match.
“And then the third I just really started to get a good rhythm, making a lot of first serves.”
Bellis and Keys had never faced each other before, but they know each other’s game well as they train at the USTA National Campus in Florida. In Doha, both of them shared a physio and fitness trainer as well.
“We know each other’s game pretty well, but it wasn’t like we’d played a bunch of (practice) sets over the years,” Bellis said. “It’s definitely tough to play against people that you know that well. But it’s just something that’s going to happen for sure.”
Last year in Doha, Bellis had lost in the qualifiers itself but a week later she stunned then-world No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska, en route to the quarter-finals in Dubai. Today she can repeat that feat in the Premier 5 event, if she beats fifth seed and defending champion Karolina Pliskova in the round of 16 match.
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