There’s 15-year-old in the U.S. Open. Scratch that. There’s a 15-year-old winning matches in the U.S. Open.
Catherine Bellis, who goes by the nickname Cici, made headlines Tuesday by defeating 13th-ranked Dominika Cibulkova to advance to the second round of the final grand slam major of the year.
As I type this, she just lost that second round match. But it’s astounding that she even got there.
I can’t imagine the feeling to be a young teen experiencing success in the ultimate level of your sport. She qualified by winning a prerequisite junior tournament earlier this month, and became the youngest person to win a U.S. Open match since Anna Kournikova did it in 1996.
The best part of the run is that she is an American excelling in an American tournament. She’s from California. That’s a pretty good way to pick your spot. If she pulled off a first round upset at the French Open, or even Wimbledon, not too many would really care.
It’s well publicized how long its been since the U.S. has produced good tennis players, so any small success will do. And it’s awesome to see how much the crowd got behind little Cici.
Honestly, watching her play felt like I was watching a junior varsity girls tennis match, given how tiny she is. Which, I assure you, is something I don’t do very often.
It’s a little reminiscent of when Melanie Oudin in 2009, who, as a 17-year-old from Georgia, reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open, also becoming a fan favorite.
Tennis is really the only sport a 15-year-old can succeed in at the utmost level. Every now and then you hear about a 15-year-old golfer (or even younger), but they usually don’t accomplish much. Bellis did.
It’s a pretty amazing accomplishment indeed and I can’t imagine what this week must have felt like for her. Most 15-year-old girls are busy taking selfies on Instagram, or gossiping with their friend on the phone about the boys in their high school. When I was 15, I spent most of my time in my room reading wizard literature.
15-year-old CiCi Bellis, meanwhile, played a national televised tennis match in the second round of our nation’s biggest tennis tournament.
I long ago stopped thinking about how many professional athletes are younger than me. I’m also trying hard not think about how Bellis is almost half my age. Instead, I have a newfound appreciation for young athletes. Where there was once bitterness, there is now respect.
In an age where we have television shows called “16 & Pregnant,” it’s nice to see a 15-year-old make headlines for doing something positive. Color me a fan.
Plus, her name is CiCi.
How can you not root for a CiCi?