Caterine “Cici” Bellis won the hearts of many tennis fans during the 2014 US Open by upsetting #12 seed Dominika Cibulkova as a 15-year-old. She continued to impress as a youngster, making the 3rd round of the Miami Open, a WTA Premier event, the next year. After playing a limited schedule due to her age, she committed to play college tennis at Stanford University. However, after continued professional success, she decided to forgo college and turn pro.
So far, her decision has proved worthwhile. Bellis won the Hawaii Tennis Open in November 2016 for her first WTA title, and hasn’t slowed down since. She certainly has not slowed down at all in 2017, jumping to her career high ranking of 40th in the world. In her second tournament of the year she defeated World #6 Agniezska Radwanska on the way to a quarterfinal appearance in Dubai. After a fairly difficult clay court campaign, she heated up at the end, reaching the third round at Roland Garros and following that up with a semifinal run on grass in Mallorca.
Vulnerable Field at Wimbledon
The field for Wimbledon, while loaded with talent, lacks a clear favorite. Some of the top players like Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina, and Johanna Konta have never made it past the second round at Wimbledon. Serena Williams is not playing, and World #1 Angelique Kerber has been out of form late, albeit on her worse surface, clay. Petra Kvitova is a popular pick, especially due to her incredible recovery story. She has looked good but is still a question mark from her hand, and has begun to fade the past couple of seasons. Bellis is unlikely to win the tournament, but losses from top players could clear a path for her to make a serious run.
Potential Results in London
She comes in to her first Wimbledon with confidence and not much to lose. She has no rankings points to protect, and even with her increase in performance, does not have high expectations to casual fans, lowering the pressure on her. Youth is often seen as a setback, but that did not stop Jelena Ostapenko from winning the French Open a month ago at age 20. Additionally, she has shown that she can perform at the highest stages. She won under more pressure in her home country 3 years ago, and has matured significantly since then. She has shown that she can perform on grass in Malloraca, so she should not be at a disadvantage on the most uncommon surface on tour. Bellis has the full package to succeed at Wimbledon or any tournament. She still needs more matches and experience, but with her skill and credentials as a teenager, it is not a matter of if she breaks through, but when.
Is Bellis the Next Face of American Women’s Tennis?
It is always difficult to place these expectations on someone, especially given the many successful American women. This title will be even more difficult to fight for given the Williams sisters’ stronghold on it over almost the last two decades. Bellis is easy to like, a Californian, laid back in interviews, and often sporting a smile on her face. She just needs the skill to back it up. It is no guarantee, seeing players like Belinda Bencic who reached the top 10 as a teenager and has struggled after return from injury to get to the top 100. On the flip side, if she does struggle, she has plenty of time to get back to the top because she has had so much success at a young age. Bellis has an opportunity to represent an entire country, and if she continues the track she is on, she can be representing America on the largest stages for years to come.