Wild Card Bellis Shocks Cibulkova in US Open First Round; Giron, Rubin, Donaldson Fall in Opening Matches
Twenty-one Americans were playing first round singles matches today at the US Open, but the show was stolen by 15-year-old wild card CiCi Bellis, who defeated No. 12 seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. Bellis, the USTA National 18s champion, was playing on newly configured Court 6, which isn't a televised court, but once she had taken the first set, ESPN managed to get a camera and Pam Shriver to the court, just in time to watch Bellis lose the second set.
Bellis went down a break early in the third set, and ESPN stuck with their John Isner studio interview, but once Bellis got the break back in the third set, they returned. From the studio Chris Evert spoke of the lack of pressure for a player in Bellis' position, and all that Cibulkova must be feeling, and that certainly did play a role in the final two games. With a large and supportive crowd pushing her on, Bellis held, then broke, feasting on Cibulkova's second serve, to become the youngest US Open first round winner since Anna Kournikova in 1996 and the youngest American since Mary Jo Fernandez ten years earlier.
Cibulkova, who reached the Australian Open final this year, has had an awful hard court season this summer, and she looked in the few games I saw, error prone and a step slow. But Bellis took advantage and did what she is supposed to do in her situation, swing away and try to win the match.
Now comes the tough part for Bellis, who will have to deal with all the attention and hype surrounding this win without the help of an agent, as she is still an amateur. She plays 20-year-old Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan in the second round Thursday, and expectations are now much higher than they were before today's win. But coping with success hasn't been a problem for Bellis in her junior career, so that's encouraging.
Here's the New York Times account of Bellis' win. The transcript of the Bellis news conference is here.
The American women had a great day, with Madison Keys(27), Nicole Gibbs, Vania King, CoCo Vandweghe, Christina McHale, Varvara Lepchenko and Shelby Rogers picking up victories (Serena Williams and Taylor Townsend have yet to take the court).
The news wasn't as good for American men. Isner, the No. 13 seed, beat NCAA champion Marcos Giron 7-6(5), 6-2, 7-6(2) on Ashe, with the level extremely high in the opening set. Giron never earned a break point however, and as usual, Isner came up with big shots in the tiebreakers. I look forward to seeing Giron competing in the American Collegiate Invitational next week, along with Danielle Collins, who played so well on Ashe yesterday. Both did college tennis proud this week. Kalamazoo champion Noah Rubin lost to Federico Delbonis of Argentina 6-4, 6-3, 6-0, getting down early in the first set before shaking his nerves and making a match of it at the end of the first and beginning of the second sets. But a first serve percentage of 51 percent just isn't going to get it done at the slam level, and Rubin's errors began to mount as Delbonis continued to apply pressure with some big shotmaking. Steve Tignor of Tennis.com filed this account of the match.
Seventeen-year-old wild card Jared Donaldson played No. 20 seed Gael Monfils of France in front of a packed house at the Grandstand this evening, with Monfils coming away with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 victory. Donaldson showed his power from both sides, but made too many errors, some of which were caused by the always stunning defense of Monfils. Monfils' serve was also superior; although he made only 54 percent of his first serves, he had much easier holds than Donaldson, who had to work so hard to hold his. Donaldson did get one break of the Monfils serve, in the third set, but he was broken both before and after that break, so it didn't provide the boost he needed to take a set.
Sam Querrey and Tim Smyczek won their first round matches today, but in addition to the losses by the wild cards Giron, Rubin and Donaldson, Jack Sock and Wayne Odesnik also lost, with Sock retiring down 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 to Pablo Andujar of Spain, with a right leg or foot injury.
Ryan Harrison and Steve Johnson play their first round matches Wednesday. Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams and Madison Brengle will play their second round matches Wednesday.
2013 US Open junior champion Borna Coric of Croatia, who qualified for the main draw, made a splash today by defeating No. 29 seed Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-1, 6-2. The transcript of his interview can be found here.
Mixed doubles play begins Wednesday, as does women's doubles. The complete schedule is here.
The draws are at usopen.org.