CiCi Bellis Has No Plans To Sit Still After US Open Loss
NEW YORK -- CiCi Bellis' father drew laughs the other day when he revealed that so much as a sigh at one of his 15-year-old daughter's matches would be detected by her, and that he has been instructed not to move.
If Gordon Bellis somehow was able to achieve a state Thursday night that he likened to "a sphinx," he was surely the only one on the US Open's Court 17. His hyper-energetic teenager whipped the supportive crowd into a frenzy en route to her inspired but ultimately hard-fought defeat at the hands of 48th-ranked Zarina Diyas 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.
The young American, listed officially as Catherine Bellis, set a frenetic pace that actually drew a warning from the umpire to slow down on her serves and briefly unnerved her opponent, but eventually may have caught up with her.
Still, she said, the experience was something that will only energize her moving forward.
"I think what surprised me is that I could really stay with these pros," she said. "And I think today if I had played a little bit better, it would have been a different result. Definitely just that I can play with them is really good."
After dropping a nerve-filled first set for both players, Bellis reeled off the next seven games to take the second set and hold serve for a 1-0 lead in the third.
As only another teenager could appreciate, Bellis asked for some soda in the third set, presumably to give her even more of a jolt. But her 20-year-old opponent, who reached the fourth round at Wimbledon this summer but was playing in her first US Open, showed her maturity and superior experience when it counted most, breaking Bellis in the third and fifth games and holding for the match.
"It was a very tough match today," said Diyas, of Kazakhstan, in her on-court interview. "CiCi played unbelievable, she has great potential."
Even in a seemingly one-sided second set, the second, third and fifth games took 10, 14 and 18 minutes, respectively, as the two engaged in a dramatic slugfest, Bellis displaying a powerful forehand and fighting spirit that both signified her youth and went well beyond her 15 years.
The best thing she said she has heard over the past few days?
"I think just people saying that, like, I'm going to be the future of American tennis," Bellis said. "I mean, that's what I've wanted to be since I was a little kid. I think that definitely makes me want to work really hard and try to become that."
Still entered in the US Open juniors next week, Bellis finished with 54 unforced errors to 37 by Diyas, which showed more of a go-for-broke style than carelessness. On break points, Bellis converted 63 percent of the time (5-for-8) while saving 69 percent (11-of-16) of them on her own serve.
"I think in the beginning of the match I was nervous and I was a little tight," she said. "Then the second set I became freer. The third set, she just kind of played better than me."
Ranked 1,028th, the No. 2 junior in the world from Atherton, California, received a wild card into the Open's main draw with her national 18s title. Bellis' stirring three-set victory in the first round over No. 12 seed and Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova made her the youngest player to win a match here since Anna Kournikova did it in 1996.
"I think ranking really doesn't matter," Bellis said. "Anybody can beat anybody on any given day."
So anxious was the giggly teenager that she watched the entire fourth set of the five-set men's match that preceded hers on Court 17 between Tommy Robredo and Simone Bolelli. Most of the other viewers had begun gathering in the morning to grab one of the 2,800 seats for a match that was anticipated to start in the late afternoon but didn't begin until 8 p.m. ET.
Outside the court -- as Bellis paced, listened to music and chatted with a friend during the men's fifth set -- a line of fans hoping to get close enough to see or grab an open seat stretched throughout the grounds.
"This whole experience has been unbelievable, like mind-blowing," she said. "It's been crazy. It's been like the best couple days of my life."