SYDNEY, Australia -- Agnieszka Radwanska's sterling results at the Sydney International continued on Wednesday, as the Polish player outlasted American qualifier CiCi Bellis in a lengthy first set before cruising to a 7-6(4), 6-0 victory in the second round.
The 2013 Sydney champion and last year's runner-up, Radwanska avenged a loss to the 18-year-old Bellis in the third round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships last year, which was the American's first Top 10 win of her career.
Radwanska, the 2015 WTA Finals victor and 2012 Wimbledon finalist, exacted revenge on her opponent for the second consecutive match, after beating World No.9 Johanna Konta in the first round to overturn her defeat by the Brit in last year's championship bout in Sydney.
In a first set which featured many long, all-court points, neither player faced a break point in the first five games. That changed on the American’s service down 3-2, when Bellis saved three break points and held four game points during a lengthy game, before a backhand error on the fourth break opportunity gave Radwanska a 4-2 lead.
That advantage was quickly squandered in the next game, when plentiful misses off the forehand side by the Pole gave Bellis two break points, the first of which she dutifully converted with a screaming forehand passing shot. Those were the only breaks in the closely contested first set, as the combatants inexorably advanced to the tiebreak from that point.
In the breaker, Bellis chased down a lovely Radwanska dropshot and responded with a superb passing shot to knot the tiebreak at 3-3, but after the change of ends, Radwanska took advantage of an error-prone Bellis to reel off four of the last five points and claim a hard-fought opening frame in a grueling 66 minutes.
Bellis, the 2017 WTA Newcomer of the Year, struggled through another protracted service game at the start of the second set. The American double faulted twice to give Radwanska three early break points, and although some terrific scrambling helped her fend those off and bring her to game point, more unforced errors handed the Pole two additional chances to claim the first game. A return winner on Radwanska's fifth opportunity clinched her the early lead.
From there, the American's unforced errors mounted, and the play which brought her a Top 20 win over Slovakia's Magdalena Rybarikova in the first round dissipated. Bellis hit 18 unforced errors in the second set to Radwanska's six, and quickly dropped her next two service games to give last year's runner-up a 5-0 lead.
Radwanska never faced a break point in the second set, and after Bellis hit a forehand error into the net on the Pole's second match point, Radwanska obtained the second set whitewash in 30 minutes to clinch victory.
The Polish fan favorite moves into the quarterfinals, where she could take on 2015 Sydney International champion Petra Kvitova in a battle of the only remaining former titlists in the field. Kvitova first has to get past Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi later on Wednesday before that encounter is set up.
More to follow...