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CoCo Vandeweghe vs Catherine Bellis Bank of the West Classic tennis live: Vandeweghe faces teenage compatriot for a place in the WTA Stanford final

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 5 Aug 2017
  • CoCo Vandeweghe faces Catherine 'CiCi' Bellis in the semifinals of the Bank of the West Classic on Saturday
  • Vandeweghe vs Bellis Bank of the West Classic semifinal tennis is live from Stanford on Saturday at 2pm local/10pm BST
CoCo Vandeweghe (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

‘California girls’ CoCo Vandeweghe and Catherine ‘CiCi’ Bellis face off in the semifinals of the Bank of the West Classic on Saturday. 

With three Americans in the semifinals, a home finalist at WTA Stanford is guaranteed and even if Madison Keys can’t make it past Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza and into the final, one of CoCo Vandeweghe or CiCi Bellis will be challenging for the title in the final of the popular Premier-level event on Sunday.

Both women clearly love playing in Stanford. Vandeweghe, who hails from southern California, had one of the best results of her career here, making the final as a lucky loser back in 2012 when she finished runner-up to Serena Williams. Bellis, who at 18 is seven years younger than Vandeweghe, made the quarterfinals at the Bank of the West Classic as a wildcard ranked world no. 203 in 2016, a run which certainly played a role – alongside her reaching the third round of the US Open – in the teenager’s decision to turn pro immediately rather than going the college tennis route, which would have involved attending Stanford. Indeed, in a parallel universe Bellis is a Stanford freshman now.

It's hard to imagine that the 18-year-old regrets that decision to take the risk of turning pro straight away, because so far everything is going beautifully for her. Having decided to turn pro, Bellis won the last 15 matches she played in 2016, winning two ITF titles (in addition to the one she had already picked up earlier in the year) and a WTA 125k in Honolulu to break into the top 100, ending the season at world no. 92. 

She’s only continued to rise in 2017, coming into the Bank of the West Classic as world no. 44 – and that’s without competing at all in January and skipping the Australian Open. Bellis started her season by making the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, beating Agnieszka Radwanska on the way. She also made the quarterfinals on clay in Rabat and reached the third round of Roland Garros, beating last year’s semifinalist Kiki Bertens on the way. Her first WTA semifinal of 2017 came on grass in Mallorca, a run which pushed her up to a career-high ranking of world no. 40, and she impressed by taking the first set against Victoria Azarenka in the first round of Wimbledon, although she ultimately lost in three to the returning world no. 1. 

Playing Stanford for the third time, Bellis opened with a win over the experienced Alize Cornet 6-3, 6-2 and survived an attempted comeback by qualifier Veronica Cepede Royg to close that one out in straight sets 7-6 (3), 6-2. Against Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals, Bellis was supremely impressive. After four straight breaks of serve to open the match, Bellis landed a perfect lob winner to move ahead 3-2 and wouldn’t lose a game from there, playing exuberant power tennis on her way to a one-sided victory over the Czech, 6-2, 6-0. Kvitova isn’t really at her best at  the moment as the always inconsistent left-hander tries to work her way back into competition after the traumatic events which led to her six-month absence, but it was a tremendous performance from Bellis. 

‘I think this is definitely one of the biggest wins of my career,’ Bellis said afterwards. ‘I’m just really happy with how I played, and really excited I was able to get through it.

‘I don’t think Kvitova played her best tennis, but on my side I feel like just played a real unbelieveable match, from my standings.’

Bank of the West Classic 2017 live stream: WTA tennis live from Stanford

Vandeweghe, meanwhile, can also have few complaints about her performances this week on her way to the semifinals – the first final-four appearance she’s made since January when she dazzled in a run to the Australian Open semifinals, beating Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza before she lost to Venus Williams, following up on the promise she showed when she made the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2015. 
Vandeweghe’s hit-and-miss game can lead to long periods with few wins of note and that’s what happened after Melbourne. The American went 4-0 in Fed Cup tennis but scored few victories elsewhere until the Mutua Madrid Open, where she made the quarterfinals, but crashed out in the first round of the French Open and promptly split with coach Craig Kardon. Teaming up with Pat Cash, Vandeweghe clearly had high hopes for her grass-court season and she did make the quarterfinals in Birmingham and then at Wimbledon, beating Caroline Wozniacki; but she showed up physically and emotionally flat in a poor defeat to Rybarikova, 3-6, 3-6.

The partnership with Cash survived, and seems to be bearing fruit however, with Vandeweghe also revealing this week she’s started (reluctantly) working with a ‘mental coach’. There’s been little to fault in her performances this week; she was up 6-2 in Ajla Tomljanovic in the first round when the Australian retired before trouncing Nicole Gibbs 6-2, 6-0. Against fourth seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarterfinals, Vandeweghe dominated the match from start to finish. The American has yet to be broken at this tournament but despite the fact that she was playing someone very nearly her equal in terms of power, she stayed calm, served strongly and backed up her first serve with a big first shot, and was equal to the challenge when Pavlyuchenkova tried to drag her into longer baseline exchanges, closing out a great win 6-2, 6-3.

‘My feeling is that it's not like I'm getting crazy high percentages but I think my play off the ground has been very solid,’ Vandeweghe said. ‘I've been moving very well off the ground. 

‘I don't feel like I'm playing off too many second serves consistently in a game, which helps me. If I'm playing off one or two second serves in a game that's okay, but any more than that then you start feeling [the pressure] yourself, that gosh, I'm hitting second serves all the time, I need to get a first serve in.’

Vandeweghe and Bellis have never met, but if the younger woman can produce the kind of gleefully explosive but also poised tennis she played against Kvitova, Vandeweghe will find herself with a fight on her hands. Still, it’s hard to argue with Vandeweghe’s greater experience and especially her booming serve when she’s been finding her targets like she has this week. 

Vandeweghe vs Bellis is scheduled on Stadium Court in Stanford on Saturday at 2pm local/10pm BST

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CoCo Vandeweghe vs Catherine Bellis Bank of the West Classic tennis live: Vandeweghe faces teenage compatriot for a place in the WTA Stanford final

Catherine Bellis trounced Petra Kvitova but can she do the same to older compatriot CoCo Vandeweghe, whose serve hasn’t been broken all week? Bank of the West Classic tennis live from Stanford

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