Photo: Fred and Susan MullaneCiCi Bellis (USA)
If ever there was a day to show that reputations count for little in juniors, then that was Tuesday at the US Open as the top two seeds in the girls’ event were sent packing in the second round by two relatively unheralded players.
Top seed CiCi Bellis was taken out 76 26 61 by Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia in a stunning match while second seed and Wimbledon champion Jelena Ostapenko was dumped out 63 61 by Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic.
The 15-year-old Bellis was the talk of the town last week when she beat Australian runner-up Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of the women’s event.
But Vikhlyantseva, who averaged well over 100 miles per hour on her first serve and topped out at 114, never let her settle and as the intense heat kicked into both girls, held on to win in just over two hours.
The first set was an epic, with Bellis saving five set points before finally losing it 11-9. The American hit back well to take the second but in the decider, the Russian went for broke and it worked.
“In the third set, I just hit (out) on every point because I couldn’t walk,” she said. “Sometimes it’s great when you receive serve just to go for it.”
The majority of the packed crowd in Grandstand Court were pulling for Bellis but Vikhlyantseva said she had enjoyed the atmosphere.
“I liked it,” she said. “When I arrived to the court it was unbelievable, there were so many people. Of course they applauded more when Bellis came, but still, I don’t think it was all because she was playing.”
Ostapenko had looked good in her opening round but was taken apart by a brilliant performance from Bouzkova, who is coached by former Tour player Jiri Novak.
“I didn’t expect to win,” the 16-year-old said. “I was just out there, playing my game, focusing on every point, grateful for every game I won and it came out pretty well. I don’t think she thought I could beat her….I think when it was 2-1 for me in the second set and she called the physio and from that moment I felt very confident.”
Having grown up in Prague, Bouzkova now spends six months each year training in Florida and said the performances of Petra Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon champion, were an inspiration.
“Of course, Petra is amazing,” she said. “I think she is an inspiration for all of us. We’ve met a couple of times in Wimbledon, she was practising a couple of times with Jiri, so I think we kind of know (each other’s) around.
There were no such surprises in the boys’ event as the top three seeds eased into the third round.
Top seed Andrey Rublev beat Jordi Arconada of Argentina 63 76 and now plays 14th seed Taylor Harry Fritz, who crushed Italy’s Filippo Baldi 60 61.
No 2 Francis Tiafoe was leading Daniel Appelgren 76 when the Swede was forced to retire.
Third seed Jared Donaldson, who earned a wildcard into the main draw of the US Open after winning three straight Futures Tour titles, was far too strong for Simone Roncalli as he won 63 61.
“It was good,” Donaldson said. “I struggled to find the court in the first few games. Through the match I don’t feel like I played my best tennis but I hung tough and stayed really tough mentally and just played the big points really, really well.”
Ranked 303 on the men’s Tour, Donaldson said he couldn’t judge if other players looked at him differently but said he would always look to learn from higher ranked players himself.
“I watched Djokovic and Federer since I was really young and would see what they did,” he said. “But it’s hard to pick things up on television but if you go out on court, you can. So when I was younger I would always go to watch the better players to see what they did, at every age group.”
Seventh seed Duckhee Lee of Korea was among other players to go through to round three.
For full results and draws click here.