Bellis learns a thing or two about tennis from Venus


CiCi Bellis learned a lot of lessons at the Bank of the West Classic. It looks like she's going to be learning a lot more on the campus after officially committing to Stanford.

Bellis was all smiles after losing to top-seeded and seventh-ranked Venus Williams, 6-4, 6-1, in the quarterfinals Friday night.

"She has a good head on her shoulders for her age," Williams said of Bellis. "She only has room to grow. She's going to be a lot, lot better."

Williams will meet American Alison Riske Saturday at 7 p.m.

"My focus is on the semifinal match," Williams said. "I can't wait to play."

And the Olympics?

"As soon as the last one was over I was ready to go again," he said.

Bellis committing to Stanford was no surprise. She talked about it a few days, needing only to get her SAT scores to confirm. She received them Thursday and took all of a few seconds to text Cardinal coach Lele Forood her decision.

Bellis cannot officially commit until the November signing day.

She reiterated that she was still going to play as often as she can to try and improve her ranking.

Bellis said she'll likely play at the $50,000 Lexington Challenger and then again at the US Open.

"To turn pro I have to doing consistently well in tournaments like this," Bellis said. "I also have to be confident in myself."

She first hit a ball at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium at age 9, in the first of many clinics she attended.

Playing Venus was, education-wise, a whole different level.

"It's unbelievable being able to play her," Bellis said. "Any tournament like this, on the WTA tour, is a great opportunity for me."

Riske was leading her match, 6-3, 1-0, when fourth-seeded CoCo VandeWeghe was forced to retire with an ankle injury.

“It's a bittersweet moment, especially when it happens to a friend," Riske said. “I didn't know she was down until I heard the crowd 'ooooh' and then turned around and saw her."

Riske also had a decision to make when it came time for college. She was ranked about No. 220 at the time.

“I had every intention of going to school first and playing tennis later," she said. “Then a family friend came out of the blue and said he would sponsor me until I could support myself. I just decided to go for it and I never looked back."

Riske reached the quarterfinal round here last year, losing to Elina Svitlona after knocking the 10th-ranked Carla Suarez Navarro.

Riske, who meets Williams in Saturday's semifinal round, also had good things to say about Bellis.

“She's a great up-and-coming player," Riske said. “I see good things coming from her in the future."

In other matches, the second-seeded Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia advanced with a 7-5, 6-0 victory over Japan's Misaki Doi. She'll meet third-seeded Johanna Konta of Great Britain, who topped China's Saisai Zheng, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

Cibulkova and Konta meet at 2 p.m. Saturday.

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