American CiCi Bellis in her match against Angelique Kerber on Friday in Flushing.
CiCi Bellis looked all of her 17 years when facing Friday’s bright lights and tennis’ new and most dangerous lefty buzzsaw — Angelique Kerber.
The resurgent second-seeded German showed no mercy in the third-round bout. Kerber pounded the young American teenager 11 years her junior in a 6-1, 6-1, 55-minute slaughter in the second night match at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Bellis, a Northern Californian who still is an amateur and is debating whether to attend Stanford after her senior year of high school, got a lesson from Kerber, whose deep, well-angled forehands simply overpowered and rarely missed.
“I think today was the best experience I ever had in tennis playing on Arthur Ashe, the best court in the world,” Bellis said. “She’s the best player right now on the tour aside from Serena [Williams]. Her ground strokes are perfect. One day I’d like to play like her — a really good person to model myself after.”
The fans cheered every point Bellis won, even giving her a standing ovation when she broke Kerber at 5-0 of the second set. But the crowd support was not enough as Bellis’ grand Open run — the second in three years — ended. Her teenaged groupie section — Team CiCi — didn’t have much to shout about.
The beating hardly crushed her spirit, not after her superb run that included winning three qualifying matches to get into the main draw.
“Now’s the best part of the trip — I’ll get to go shopping,” Bellis said.
Bellis can take solace that she may have lost to the eventual Open champion. Even if Kerber doesn’t win her first U.S Open, she can overtake Serena Williams for No. 1 in the computer rankings.
Friday’s fireworks display sent not only a loud message to the young Bellis on how far she needs to go, but to Williams. Kerber and Williams are on a collision course for the finals next Saturday. Kerber next faces Petra Kvitova, the 16th seed, in the fourth round.
Bellis, ranked 158th, had some moments early, hitting a few lasers to keep it competitive, even mounting two break points in the first game, before completely collapsing. Kerber hit a series of forehand winners down the line that Bellis could only watch and admire.
Kerber only let up in her post-match comments.
“She played great tournament and for sure she has a great career ahead,” Kerber said. “She played a good match. Credit to her.”
Kerber noted how nervous she was eight years ago facing Williams in a night match at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Had Bellis pulled off a miracle, she would have been the lowest-ranked player to make the fourth round since 1983.
In the first set, Bellis won just six points on her serve. She was better off facing Kerber’s serve, but couldn’t convert any of her five break points. Bellis rocketed a handful of forehand winners but had none of the craftiness of the lefty who won the Australian Open last winter. She’s still learning how to construct points and often goes for too much.
The second set was much less competitive. Bellis didn’t win a point in the first two games of the second stanza, getting broken at love to start.