RABAT, Morocco - American teen CiCi Bellis gritted through a titanic three-setter against defending champion and No.2 seed Timea Bacsinszky to advance into the quarterfinals of the Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem.
Just a day after notching her first ever senior-level win on red clay in similarly dramatic fashion - ousting Nao Hibino in a 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 rollercoaster - Bellis proved she still had enough in the tank against Bacsinszky to save a match point complete the 6-7(3), 7-5, 7-5 upset in three hours and eight minutes.
“I feel amazing; it’s definitely one of the longest matches I’ve played on the pro tour so I’m happy to come through,” Bellis said in her on-court interview.
Both players stayed evenly matched during the tightly contested opening set. After trading six straight breaks of serve, Bacsinszky fought off two Bellis set points to send it to a tiebreak, where she edged ahead to take the opening set.
Bellis took an early lead in the second, breaking Bacsinszky in her first service game and marching ahead to two set points. But things got a bit complicated as she tried to serve it out, with Bacsinszky putting in a mammoth effort to save both and finally get the break back at 5-5.
But the American teen recovered quickly and broke straight back to reestablish the lead level the match.
The final set was as close as the rest of the match, with both players trading breaks twice to stay level in the final stages. With both players constantly under pressure, it was Bellis who blinked first, finding herself trailing in her service game and giving Bacsinszky a match point.
The American stayed fearless, playing inside the court and slapping away the match point with an inside out forehand before taking the decisive break in the very next game to make her way into the Rabat quarterfinals.
She’ll take on fellow American Varvara Lepchenko in the next round. Lepchenko took down the No.5 seed Yulia Putintseva 1-6, 6-4, 6-1.