DOHA — Another day, another win for CiCi Bellis. The 18-year-old scored her fifth win of the Qatar Total Open with a 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory over world No. 5 Karolina Pliskova.
“I think when you're playing girls ranked this high, you can't really think about it. You just have to kind of play the ball,” Bellis said. “I've just been trying to take it one point at a time, one game at a time and one match at a time, so that's really been helping me.”
Pliskova, the defending champion in Doha, is Bellis’ first career Top 5 victory. The American has benefitted greatly from being in Doha longer than most of her opponents (Pliskova flew in on Monday from the Czech Republic’s Fed Cup tie).
“It was honestly so helpful,” Bellis said about qualifying. “I think just getting used to the courts, and in qualifying I actually played on courts one and two, and yesterday I played on two and it was a match under my belt on that court. That's huge in later stages at a tournament like this.”
Bellis has also been benefitting from the relaxed atmosphere in Qatar and from a certain fine dining option near her even finer hotel.
“We've been going to Nobu every single night, and I love it,” Bellis said. “So I think that's definitely helping me. I've been having ice cream after dinner every night. I think that gives me a bit of energy, personally.”
The teenager has even been repeating her exact meal (edamame, shrimp tempura roll and miso glazed cod). The Nobu in Doha is on another level, literally, because it’s situated across from the Four Seasons on it’s own strip of land that stretches out into the ocean, allowing for insane views of the skyline.
If that sort of lifestyle won’t get you in the right mood ahead of a hard day’s work, nothing will.
The world No. 48 had played Pliskova once before, a 6-1, 6-1 lopsided loss last month in Brisbane. This time, she was armed with extra days of Doha experience, Nobu fuel and a new mindset.
“I knew I had to be super on top of it from the first point today,” Bellis said. “That's what my team and I discussed. From the first point I had to be 100 percent rather than kind of get into the match and take a few games. So I think that was a big part of it.”
Next for Bellis will be another chance at a huge scalp against world No. 2 Simona Halep.
“Her season has been awesome,” Bellis said. “I've watched so much of it, and it would be super fun to play her, just as fun as going into my match today.”
Despite never having played her, Halep is more than aware of Bellis’ optimism, youth and skills.
“I feel old,” the 26-year-old said. “She's very good. I saw her playing a few times. I feel that she's moving pretty well. She's hitting fast. She tries to be aggressive and close to the baseline.”
Bellis has her first-ever Premier 5 semifinal at stake, while Halep could regain the No. 1 ranking this week.
“It's going to be a new thing, new challenge,” Halep said. “But I'm ready, and I feel that I have just to do my game, not thinking about anything else.”
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