America’s newest tennis sweetheart continues her debut US Open dream run Thursday.
In her first WTA tournament, wild card Catherine “CiCi” Bellis, the tournament’s youngest competitor, shocked No. 12 seed Dominika Cibulkova, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, in her opening match to become the youngest player to win a singles match at the US Open since Anna Kournikova in 1996. Unfamiliar with such grand stages and competitors, the 15-year-old did not know she’d face off against world No. 48 Zarina Diyas in the second round. Despite her lack of experience, it’s clear that the Girls' 18s national champion can hang with the big league and advance even further, given her draw.
Also playing in her first US Open, 20-year-old Diyas has had success on the Grand Slam circuit. After reaching Wimbledon’s round of 16 and the Australian Open's third round earlier this year, Diyas skyrocketed to a career-high ranking of No. 46. The powerful righty could pose a real threat, since she cruised in round one.
If the world's No. 2-ranked junior can mix up the pace and keep her service percentage and spirit high, she should be able to dispose of her Top 50 opponent. As per her last match, Bellis did not fold under pressure but rather triumphed. For Bellis to continue her incredible success here, she’ll have to play aggressive tennis and not let nerves or emotion get the best of her on Court 17, as they did last year's surprise first-round winner Victoria Duval, who shocked 2011 champion Sam Stosur. Luckily for Bellis, the crowd will likely stay behind her on every point, which she says she loves.