Bellis leads way
On Day 2 at the 2017 French Open
E.J. Crawford | May 29, 2017
CiCi Bellis debuted to great fanfare, eliminating No. 14 seed Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of the 2014 US Open to become the youngest player (15) to win a main-draw match in Flushing Meadows since Anna Kournikova 18 years prior.
Since that time, Bellis, who turned 18 in April, has quietly gone about establishing herself as a top-tier professional, posting consistently solid results to become the youngest player in the Top 50.
The California native took the next step in her development Monday at the French Open, playing a near-spotless third set to defeat Dutchwoman Quirine Lemoine, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, for her first Grand Slam main-draw victory away from U.S. soil.
Joining Bellis in the winner’s circle Monday were two American veterans: Steve Johnson, who completed his first-round match, suspended Sunday due to darkness, with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-7, 6-7, 6-3 victory over Japan’s Yuichi Sugita, and Varvara Lepchenko, who ousted 2014 French Open semifinalist Andrea Petkovic, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
After splitting the opening two sets, Bellis shined in the decider. ADVERTISEMENT She converted both of her break-point chances and won 82 percent of her first-serve points. With that, she is into the second round of a Grand Slam event for the third time in three chances, alongside her second-round showing at the US Open in 2014 and a run to the third round in New York a year ago.
Lepchenko, playing in her 11th French Open, advanced to the second round for the first time since 2014. Her best result at a major came at Roland Garros in 2012, when she reached the round of 16. (The left-hander also reached the fourth round at the 2015 US Open.)
Johnson was leading, two sets to one but down a break in the fourth, when play was stopped Sunday. After dropping the fourth set, he quickly regained his level in the fifth, breaking in the third game of the set and maintaining his advantage throughout the final frame. While he has historically been at his best on faster surfaces, Johnson has made strides on clay in 2017, winning the U.S. Clay Court Championships in April for his first career tour title on dirt.
Those wins offset what was otherwise a tough day for the U.S. contingent, with No. 14 Jack Sock, No. 19 CoCo Vandeweghe and No. 25 Lauren Davis all falling. American players also dropped a pair of heartbreakers, with Donald Young losing a marathon to former French Open finalist David Ferrer, 5-7, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 13-11, and Jennifer Brady coming up just short against popular pre-tournament sleeper pick Kristina Mladenovic, 3-6, 6-3, 9-7.
Also Monday, in one of the most highly anticipated first-round matches, up-and-coming Frances Tiafoe ran out of gas in the fifth set after mounting an impressive comeback against Fabio Fognini, with the Italian prevailing, 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 1-6, 6-0.
The first round wraps up on Tuesday with No. 12 seed Madison Keys, Alison Riske and Taylor Townsend among the women in action, and No. 21 seed John Isner, No. 27 Sam Querrey and rising star Ernesto Escobedo playing in the men’s draw.