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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bellis Returns to Junior Fed Cup with two 6-0, 6-0 Victories; Tiafoe, Sandgren, Donaldson Reach Tallahassee Challenger Semifinals

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Boca Raton, FL--

CiCi Bellis has a ITF World Junior Tennis championship and an ITF Junior Fed Cup championship on her resume the past two years, so she would expect to have experienced just about everything those two competitions had to offer when she returned for the North and Central American Qualifying for Junior Fed Cup this weekend.  But Bellis, who turned 16 earlier this month, had never before had an opponent ask for a photo with her, which happened today after her second 6-0, 6-0 victory of the day.

"I don't think any of my opponents has ever wanted a picture with me," said Bellis, who had been asked for one earlier in the day by two older gentlemen on their way to hit on the Evert Academy courts. "It was fine, they were really nice girls, and we talked to them a little bit when we were having lunch. But I don't mind, I'm getting used to it, it's fun."

Bellis, who won her singles match over Penelope Abreu of the Dominican Republic 6-0, 6-0 to give the USA Junior Fed Cup team an insurmountable  2-0 lead, said the photo requests have been common since her first round win over Dominika Cibulkova at the US Open last year, but her two victories last month at the Miami Open have also raised her profile.  Bellis lost 6-1, 6-1 to Serena Williams in the third round, an experience she thinks will be valuable to her in the future.

"It was so scary, but it was a good experience," Bellis said. "I was really nervous and I couldn't get past playing Serena. I didn't really get past it this time, but if I ever play her again, I think it will be easier."

As for returning to junior competition this week, Bellis said she enjoys the team atmosphere and believes it will help prepare her for the French Open qualifying in a few weeks.

"This is for match play before the French," said Bellis, who will make her decision about competing in the French Junior Championships based on how the women's qualifying tournament goes for her. "Canada's a really good team, and the next team, Mexico, is pretty good too, so it's match play, and practice on the clay."

As for the team format, Bellis said, "it's so much fun. We put bows in our hair and paint our faces, it's so fun."

"And being on a team, you're not playing for yourself, but obviously, for your country and I like that. And I play so much better at these things."

Because Bellis is 16, she is restricted by WTA rules on the number of tournaments she can play, so junior competition can help fill that match play void.

"I have to have it scheduled out basically for the whole year and even next year, a calendar to make sure I don't play too many tournaments," said Bellis, who will also weigh her participation in the Wimbledon Junior Championships based on her performance in the women's qualifying there.

Kayla Day and Michaela Gordon are the two other USA Junior Fed Cup players, with Day winning 6-3, 6-0 in the opening match at No. 2 singles. Gordon and Bellis won the doubles against the Dominican team 6-0, 6-0.

As impressive a performance as that was, the US boys participating in the 14-and-under World Junior Tennis competition were equally dominant, losing only two games in three matches against Guatemala.  Brandon Nakishima won 6-0, 6-0 over Jonathan Hernandez, Adam Neff won 6-0, 6-1 over Juan Sebastian Dominguez and Nakashima and Govind Nanda won in doubles 6-0, 6-1.

The US girls 14-and-under team defeated Canada 3-0, with Amanda Anisimova winning over Ariana Arseneault 6-1, 6-4 and Caty McNally beating Leylah Fernandez 6-2, 6-3. McNally and Hurricane Tyra Black won the doubles 6-1, 6-1.

The US Junior Davis Cup team made it 12-0 for the US, with Vasil Kirkov beating Kyle Frankel of Aruba 6-1, 6-0 and Gianni Ross defeating Patrick Sydow 6-3, 6-3.  Sam Riffice and Kirkov took the doubles 6-3, 6-2.

The other teams to win in the first round Thursday: Canada's WJT boys team, Junior Fed Cup team and Junior Davis Cup team all beat Mexico, all by 3-0 scores.  Canada did have two late substitutions with Vanessa Wong taking Bianca Andreescu's place on the Junior Fed Cup team, and Benjamin Sigouin substituting for Felix Auger-Aliassime on the Junior Davis Cup team.

The only match decided by the doubles was the girls World Junior Tennis contest between Guatemala and Mexico.  Guatemala won at No. 2 in a three-setter, Mexico won at No. 1 in a three-setter, and the doubles also went three sets, with Guatemala taking a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 victory.  Although all doubles in ITF Junior (and Professional) events are no-ad with match tiebreakers for a third set, these team competitions play regular scoring, best of three tiebreak sets, so that match went more than two hours, with Mexico coming back from 5-1 down in the final set to get back on serve, only to be broken in the last game to end it.

All four US teams will play Mexico in Friday's second round.

Complete results can be found here.

Three Americans have reached the semifinals of the $50,000 Tallahassee Challenger: 17-year-old Frances Tiafoe, 18-year-old Jared Donaldson and 23-year-old Tennys Sandgren.  Sandgren knocked Bjorn Fratangelo out of the USTA's Har-Tru Wild Card Challenge for the French Open wild card with a 6-2, 6-2 victory, while Mitchell Krueger was eliminated from contention with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 loss to No. 6 seed Facundo Arguello of Argentina. Donaldson defeated Vincent Millot of France 6-4, 7-6(4), and tonight, Tiafoe downed Emilio Gomez of Ecuador 6-1, 7-6(2).  Tiafoe is now in the lead in the wild card race, but the other two Americans can win it if they claim the title Saturday. 

At the Women's Pro Circuit stop in Charlottesville, 16-year-old wild card Usue Arconada defeated Julia Boserup 6-7(2), 7-5, 6-2 to advance to the quarterfinals. Dothan finalist Katerina Stewart downed qualifier Nicole Frenkel 6-3, 6-0 and Allie Kiick beat Paula Goncalves of Brazil 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. 

The American quarterfinalists at the $10,000 Futures in Vero Beach include Wil Spencer, Greg Ouellette, Michael Mmoh and Ryan Haviland.