What you need to know about Catherine 'CiCi' Bellis
NEW YORK -- The U.S. Open has been the scene of a many breakthrough runs for young American women, and 15-year-old Catherine "CiCi" Bellis can now add her name to the list, after defeating 12th seed and Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in the first round. Bellis, who was born in April 1999, became the youngest woman to win a match at the U.S. Open since Anna Kournikova in 1996, and the youngest American to win a match at the U.S. Open since Mary Joe Fernandez in 1986. Bellis will play No. 48 Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan in the second round.
Here's what you need about the bubbly California teenager:
• She's a Northern California girl: Bellis was born in San Francisco and lives in Atherton, California.
• She was three when she first picked up a racket: Bellis' mother played junior tournaments when she was younger and Bellis picked up the game at her local country club. She didn't focus primarily on tennis until she was 11. That would be four years ago.
• She's a top-ranked junior: Bellis is currently the No. 2 junior behind Ivana Jorovic of Serbia. She's won a series of prestigious junior titles including the Easter Bowl Championships, USTA International Spring Championships, and the Coffee Bowl. She's also playing the U.S. Open junior tournament.
• She made her debut in a professional event at the $25K ITF event in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., in February, but is leaving her prize money on the table: Bellis would be eligible to take home at least $60,000 for winning her first-round match but says she's not going to take the money in order to keep her amateur status in case she wants to play college tennis.
• She earned her main draw wild card: Wild cards can be seen as charity sometimes, especially when they're given to unheralded young players from a Slam country. But Bellis earned her's fair and square. She won the USTA Girls' 18s National Championship, becoming the youngest to win the title since Lindsay Davenport. Noah Rubin, 18, earned his main draw wild card the same way.
• She's the youngest player in the field: The next youngest player is 17-year-old Belinda Bencic. Bellis is the youngest Grand Slam main draw participant since Alize Cornet at the 2005 French Open and the youngest at the U.S. Open since 2004.
• This was her first tour-level main draw match and Grand Slam debut: Bellis mainly plays junior tournaments or low-level pro tournaments on the ITF circuit. She had not even played the main draw of a WTA tournament before making her Slam debut today.
• The highest-ranked player she had ever faced was No. 123 Sofia Arvidsson: Cibulkova is ranked No. 13 and beat Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep, and Agnieszka Radwanska to make the Australian Open final in January. "I'm still speechless. I'm still in shock about that match," she said. "I went in thinking I was going to play as well as I could possibly play. I obviously played pretty well. So I'm really happy."
• Idol worship: Kim Clijsters. She says she models her game style and fighting spirit after the four-time major champion.
• She loves a crowd: Bellis and Cibulkova were put on Court 6, which happens to be a non-televised court. But as the crowd grew to standing-room only capacity, ESPN rushed a single camera out there and broadcast the end of the match.
• She once took this picture: Three years ago.
• She's not a Belieber: She used to like Justin Bieber. "When I was younger," she says. Burn.