CiCi Bellis, US Open winner, Rock Hill Rocks Open champion
by Jonathon Braden
Courtesy of Tim Hartis with the Rock Hill Rocks Open:
ROCK HILL, SC – CiCi Bellis, 15, of Atherton, CA, used a hot forehand shot on a cool Sunday afternoon to defeat fellow Californian Lauren Embree, 23, of Los Angeles 6-4 6-0 in the final singles match of the 6th annual ROCK HILL ROCKS OPEN tennis tournament.
It was the first USTA Pro Circuit singles championship for the amateur right hander, who is the No. 1-ranked junior girl player in the world (18-and-under). She won a doubles Pro Circuit championship in March in Orlando, FL, on clay. Amateurs who win on the Pro Circuit have limits on how much prize money they can accept.
Bellis made headlines in August at the 2014 U.S. Open with her first-round upset of No. 12 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia. Bellis received a wild card into the main draw as the USTA Girls’ 18s national champion, and she became the youngest player to win a main draw match at the US Open since Anna Kournikova in 1996.
The week before the Rock Hill tournament, Bellis was in Florida working with Nick Bollettieri, who has coached 10 players who went on to be No. 1 in the world. Bollettieri changed how she gripped the racquet, and her strokes improved throughout the week at the $25,000 Rock Hill event. Bellis outlasted 32 main draw players from 16 different countries.
Sunday’s match was held at the Rock Hill Tennis Center on the championship court. Fans cheered enthusiastically as they watch under overcast skies.
Bellis is playing another $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Florence, SC, this coming week. After that, she will spend two more weeks with Bollettieri, before playing in a $50,000 event at Captiva Island in Florida.
In the doubles championship match in Rock Hill, held immediately before singles, Cindy Burger of the Netherlands and Sharon Fichman of Canada defeated Despina Papamichail of Greece and Janina Toljan of Austria 4-6 6-1 (10-6).
Tennis players on the Pro Circuit compete for prize money and ranking points. The circuit is the pathway to tour-level tournaments, including the US Open, for aspiring competitors.
Many of today’s top stars, including Maria Sharapova, played on the Pro Circuit. Several of these top-ranked players – including Madison Keys, Camila Giorgi and Varvara Lepchenko – played in Rock Hill.