At 15 years old, Cici Bellis pulled off the upset in the first round of the 2014 US Open beating 12th seed Dominika Cibulkova, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 to became the youngest player to win a match at the Grand Slam tournament in New York since Anna Kournikova did it 18 years ago.
Unfortunately for the American teenager, who was born in San Francisco, California, she can’t claim her winnings in this tournament owing to her status as an amateur. Women’s singles players receive $60,420 for first round wins at the US Open.
Bellis couldn’t care less about the prize money though as she admitted getting the upset victory was more important at this point of her career.
“I don't really think about it. I mean, I try to just focus on, you know, the tennis rather than anything else, especially thinking about something after the match, like what's on the line for the match,” Bellis told the tournament’s official website when asked about the forfeiture of her potential prize money.
Bellis also beat the American record by Mary Joe Fernandez, who was 14 years old when she won US Open matches in 1984. The 15-year-old who is ranked No. 2 in the junior world rankings qualified as a wildcard for the tennis major by winning the US 18s Nationals where she was also the youngest player to win since 1991.
Cibulkova from Slovenia didn't know what hit her. Bellis bucked the odds despite six double-faults and the same number of unforced errors. However, Bellis had more aces (4-1) and break points (4-1) for the match
Down 1-3 in the third set, Bellis showed resolve rare for a 15-year-old.
“Well, yeah, when I was down 3-1, it was kind of a bummer, because I won the first set, lost the second. We had a long game the first game of the third set. I ended up winning that and then lost three games in a row. I just kind of told myself, Calm down, don't think about who you're playing, who is on the other side of the court. Just be free. You have nothing to lose,”
Bellis went on to win the five of the next 6 games and just like that she turned into the America’s next tennis sweetheart. Bellis meets Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan in the next round.