Cici Bellis: Another American Teen causing a stir at her first US Open - UBITENNIS
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Cici Bellis: Another American Teen causing a stir at her first US Open

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TENNIS US OPEN – Fifteen year old Cici Bellis caused a major upset on Tuesday by knocking out 12th seed Dominika Cibulkova. The teenager has made it publicly known that she is not going “pro” just yet and so will not be accepting the $60, 420 in prize money for this 1st round victory. Is it the right choice? From New York, Cordell Hackshaw

 

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It seems like every year when the USTA gives out their wildcards for the US Open main draw to the talented lot of young American players, amongst them is one who makes a major splash at the tournament. This year, it appears as though 15-year-old Catherine Cartan “Cici” Bellis is that player. She came into this tournament a virtual unknown to most tennis fans. Last year, she lost in the 3rd round of the Juniors to the eventual champion, Ana Konjuh. However, this year, she knocked out 12th seed and 2014 Australian Open finalist, Dominika Cibulkova in 6-1 4-6 6-4 in the first round of the main draw. Yet, this is not the biggest byline of this story. Bellis has made it publicly known that she is not going “pro” just yet and so will not be accepting the $60, 420 in prize money for this 1st round victory.

Since the Australian Open, Cibulkova has been struggling to find that form to be a major contender. She has played poorly at most of the regular tour tournaments and lost in the 3rd round at both the French Open and Wimbledon. Coming into the US Open, Cibulkova won only a single match at the four US Open Series tournaments she played. Although Bellis’ father, Gordon Bellis, stated that the plan for her in this first round encounter was not to lose “double bagels,” tennis fans knew that Cibulkova was susceptible to an early upset. The young American broke Cibulkova to open the match and never looked back for the rest of the set taking it 6-1 in 23 minutes. In the 2nd set, Cibulkova gained control early when she led 4-2. Bellis battled back to level it at 4-4 but Cibulkova lifted her game again to close out the set 6-4 and thus level the match.

One expected Bellis to shrink under the pressure but she persevered. She came back from an early break in the set to lead 5-4. Cibulkova serving to stay in the match could not come up with the goods. Bellis broke Cibulkova to take the match 6-1 4-6 6-4 in an hour and 43 minutes. “I went into the match thinking it was going to be such a great experience, but I never thought I would come out on top winning,” said Bellis after the match.

The young American players who have all made a splash at the Open over the past few years have all benefited from numerous sponsors and endorsements but Bellis would not be one of those. “I think I’m definitely going to stay an amateur right now to keep my options open for college, in case an injury or something happens. But I’d love to be a pro one day.” According to Mr. Bellis, a college education is really important to the family and this was something that was decided amongst them all. On initial glance, this might seem like a strange decision as tennis has a long history of young tennis stars several of whom are the sport’s greats. However, in recent times, this has become less of an occurrence. Consider that on the ATP, Nick Kyrgios is the only teenager in the top 100. On the women’s side, it has been the tour veterans who are dominating at the big tournaments, Maria Sharapova, Li Na, Flavia Pennetta. Serena Williams, the current world’s number 1 is 32 years old, soon to be 33 in September.

Several years ago, the WTA put in place a very strict and detailed age limit on tour. Players have to be 18 years or older in order to be fully on the tour and cannot join the tour until they are 14. The young players are limited to a handful number of tournaments and have to qualify rightly or gain a wildcard which is also regulated. This has greatly reduced the ability for most of these young players to gain any real foothold on the tour. Even if they are winning, it is virtually impossible for them to maintain the ranking and move up high as the number of points they are able to earn is also limited. Therefore, those initial lucrative sponsors and endorsement will soon dry up when the good results and ranking do not materialize. These young players then soon find themselves facing mounting bills and difficulties breaking even whilst traversing this global sport. The pressure to produce often times become too much. Consider the case of Melanie Oudin and her magical 2009 US Open run at 17. Since then, she has yet to win a tour title and has only won 4 matches at the majors. She lost in qualifications this year.

With this in mind, Bellis’ opting to forgo this early professional route and to stick to playing junior tennis and concentrate on school, is far more sound than senseless. She is being home-schooled so as to have more practice time. According to her father, Bellis is extremely driven about her tennis career and holds very strong opinions on the matter. He however, feels that at this time, there are more important things than the potential money she can make. He noted that there are many cases of young tennis “phenoms” burning out early and also the emotional turmoil between them and their parents. Both he and his wife, Lori Bellis, are trying to prevent any of these issues from affecting their only child. Nonetheless, Bellis is only 15 years old and there is still about 3 years before she can become a full tour member and also before entering college. That is a lot of time for things to change. Bellis will next play Zarina Diyas for a place in the 3rd round.

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Simona Halep Ends Six-Year Collaboration With Coach Cahill

One of the longest coaching partnerships on the WTA Tour has come to an end.

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Former world No.1 Simona Halep is on the lookout for a new coach after unexpectedly announcing her split from Darren Cahill on Wednesday.

 

The two-time Grand Slam champion has been working with the Australian mentor for most of the time since 2015. There was a brief period where Cahill stepped away from his duties to spend more time with his family before later returning. Under his guidance, the Romanian reached the top of the world rankings and featured in the final of three major tournaments, winning two of those.

“After six wonderful years working together, Darren Cahill and I have decided that it’s time to end our working relationship,” Halep wrote on social media. “Thank you D for everything, for making me a better tennis player and a better person.”

55-year-old Cahill is a former player himself who has also worked with a series of top players prior to Halep. In the past, he has coached both Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi to world No.1 at different stages of their careers. Doubles specialist Horia Tecău reportedly told Romanian TV that it was rumoured Cahill received an annual salary in the region of one million euros during his time with Halep. Although this has not been verified.

The announcement comes a week after Halep married Macedonian businessman Toni Iuruc. One of those who attended the event was Illie Nastase who was one of the world’s best tennis players during the 1970s, winning both the French Open and US Open.

I didn’t know anything about Simona’s intention to break up with Darren Cahill. It took me a little by surprise. But Simona Halep has proven she knows what she’s doing. As I did not know, I do not see what I could comment. But there is no question of collaborating (with her),” Nastase told playsport.ro.
I didn’t talk to her about this or to anyone else in her entourage… I think only Simona knows who her future coach will be. I trust her choices.”

So far in 2021 Halep has achieved a win-loss record of 15-7 during what has been a rollercoaster season. An Achilles injury forced her to miss both the French Open and Wimbledon, as well as the Tokyo Olympics. Since returning to the Tour from her injury she has won back-to-back matches in one out of three tournaments played. Reaching the fourth round of the US Open.

There has been no official word on who may replace Cahill as Halep’s coach.

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Venus Williams Explains Met Gala Photo With Maria Sharapova

The former world No.1 says she and her sister Serena have ‘respect and love’ for Sharapova.

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Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams at the 20201 Met Gala (image via Instagram)

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams says there are no hard feelings between her, her sister Serena and Maria Sharapova after the trio took a photo together at the Met Gala.

 

The former world No.1s was seen smiling and laughing together at the New York fundraising event with both of the Williams sisters uploading a photo of them all on their Instagram story. Prompting surprise from some fans considering the at times icy rivalry between Serena and Sharapova that dates back to the 2004 Wimbledon Championships.

In her 2017 autobiography, Unstoppable: My Life So Far, Sharapova mentioned Serena’s name more than 100 times. She says the American hated her for beating her at Wimbledon that year and that the two were ‘not friends.’

“What I heard when I came in to the locker room was Serena Williams bawling,” Sharapova wrote.
“Guttural sobs. I got out as quickly as I could, but she knew I was there.
“I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds … I think she hated me for seeing her at her lowest moment.
“But mostly I think she hated me for hearing her cry. She’s never forgiven me for it.”

Responding to the claims, Serena hit back at the book in 2018 by describing it as ‘hearsay’ and said she never had any ‘negative feelings’ towards Sharapova. The two clashed on the Tour no fewer than 22 times with Serena winning 20 of those meetings.

“So I don’t have any negative feelings towards her, which again, was a little disappointing to see in that hearsay book,” Williams commented back in 2018. “So I have always, you know, and especially having a daughter, like, I feel like negativity is taught. One of the things I always say, I feel like women, especially, should bring each other up.”

Three years later and it now seems that all parties have put their disagreements behind them. At the Met Gala they were seen getting on pretty well. Besides posing for a photo together, they were also seen together in the bathroom at the event. A photo taken by pop star Anitta and rapper Saweetie which showed them in the background.

Speaking about the event for the first time, 41-year-old Williams said she wishes Sharapova was still playing before adding that they still ‘respect and love’ each other.

“First of all, Serena and I were talking about Maria the day before,” the 41-year-old explained on Instagram.
“We were like, ‘Damn, I wish Maria was still playing.’
“And we saw her, and we both told her separately, ‘Oh my gosh, we were just talking about you yesterday, we wish you were still on tour.’
“We were so happy to see each other. There was hugs, there was laughing, there were stories, and there was a photo.
“So the backstory is that even though us players compete really hard of the court for years, we still respect and love each other, and love Maria
.”

Williams, Serena and Sharapova have won a total of 35 Grand Slam singles titles between them.

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Emma Raducanu Launches Own Weibo Account With Viral Video

In her first video, the teenage sensation promised to play in China next year.

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Emma Raducanu reacts after winning a Women's Singles semifinal match at the 2021 US Open, Thursday, Sep. 9, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Darren Carroll/USTA)

British tennis sensation Emma Raducanu is gaining a rapidly growing fan base in China with her first video on the social media account Weibo surpassing one million views in less than two days.

 

The 18-year-old has become one of the most talked about athletes in the world of tennis following her unprecedented run to the US Open title. At the Grand Slam she didn’t drop a single set in 10 matches played to become the first qualifier in history to ever win a major title. Even more remarkable was the fact Raducanu was playing in a Grand Slam main draw for only the second time in her career.

In her native UK bookmakers are already tipping the youngster as a strong contender to win this year’s prestigious BBC Sports personality of the Year award. Although it isn’t just Britain where she is proving to be a hit. Raducanu was actually born in Canada to a Romanian father and Chinese mother who both work in the finance section. The family moved to the UK when Raducanu was two-years-old.

“My mum comes from a Chinese background. They have very good self-belief. It’s not necessarily about telling everyone how good you are, but it’s about believing it within yourself. I really respect that about the culture,” she said.
“She’s always instilled a lot of discipline and respect for other people into me, so I think that having parents like I do, they always push me, they have high expectations so I’ve always tried to live up to that. And I just hope I did them proud this week and I’m going to keep trying to go, keep going.”

Shortly after her US Open win, the world No.23 delivered a message in mandarin which was posted on the tournament’s Weibo account. SportsPro Media reports that the video generated more than 11 million impressions.

Now Raducanu has launched her own Weibo account with a video message to her fans. Shine.cn, which is a website powered by Chinese newspaper Shanghai Daily, said that the British player has promised to play in the country next year. This season’s Asian swing has been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Shine also said she spoke with a slight ‘accent from northeast China’ where her mother is from.

According to the latest view count, the video has been watched more than 1.22 million times since it was published. The view count may look impressive but it is by no means a one off. The Guardian newspaper recently reported that two hashtags related to Raducanu on Weibo have been viewed at least 200M times each as a result of her US Open win. These hashtags were ‘18-year-old ethnic Chinese young player wins US open championship‘ and ‘Raducanu.’

Despite her relative inexperience on the Tour, many are tipping Raducanu to become one of the most marketable athletes in the world. Her ability to interact with the Chinese market will play a significant role in those considering the country has invested millions into the sport and hosts a series of prestigious women’s events. However, in the immediate future the teenager says her focus is on the tennis.

“I have a few days’ rest and recovery – I think needed after the last seven weeks,” she told CNBC’s Closing Bell earlier this week.
“But then I am straight back to training and hungry to get better and come back out and play some more tournaments.”

Besides Weibo, Raducanu also has over 583,000 followers on Twitter, 1.9M Instagram followers and 63,000 followers on her official Facebook page.

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