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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Elina Svitolina Not Giving Up On Grand Slam Dreams

The 25-year-old tennis star speaks out about her chances of winning a major title in the future.

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Elina Svitolina (@usopen on Twitter)

Ukraine’s top player Elina Svitolina is hoping that she can one day emulate the likes of Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep by using her experience on the WTA Tour to guide her to Grand Slam success.

 

The world No.5 says the openness of the women’s tour makes her believe that she can still win a major title. Since 2018 seven different women have won Grand Slam titles with Halep and Naomi Osaka being the one players to have won multiple trophies within that period. As for 25-year-old Svitolina, she is yet to contest a major final. Although she did reach the semifinals of Wimbledon and the US Open last year.

Speaking to tennis website BTU, Svitolina says the diverse range of major winners is a confidence boost for her. Saying the key aspect for her to potentially succeed is maintaining a high level of physical and mental health throughout a two-week period at a Grand Slam.

“In recent years, we see that tennis players had different paths to victory. Someone won right away as soon as they announced themselves on the tour. Others patiently gained experience to finally win the major, for example, Simone Halep and Caroline Wozniacki. Different paths are also due to different styles of play,” she explained.
“It gives me hope and energy to work hard so that one day I can take this chance. The key point for me is to keep my best level for two weeks. This requires a lot of effort, both psychological and physical. Everything should work at the same time. And you need to add a little luck.”

Svitolina is yet to fully commit to playing at the next major event, which will be the US Open in August. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament will be taking place behind closed doors for the first time in history and strict measures are in place with players being kept in what is described as a ‘bubble.’ Although some have reservations about playing in New York amid a rising number of Coronavirus cases in the country. On Friday health officials reported 66,528 new cases.

Prior to the US Open, the women’s Tour will officially restart on August 3rd at the Palermo Open in Italy. Although Svitolina says there are many ‘unanswered questions’ about returning to competitive tennis and the potential travel restrictions she may encounter.

“They (the WTA) organize video conferences every week, sometimes they invite ITF or USTA representatives, since the US Open is now in the centre of discussions,” she said.
“So, they inform us. But, I think, it all depends on local authorities. As we can see, the rules vary from country to country, changes occur every week. There are still many unanswered questions.”

Svitolina started 2020 by winning 11 out of 17 matches played before the sport was suspended due to the pandemic. At her most recent tournament in Monterrey, she won her 14th title by dropping only one set in five matches played.

Svitolina’s Grand Slams record

Year Australian Open Roland Garros Wimbledon US Open
2020 R32
2019 QF R32 SF SF
2018 QF R32 R128 R16
2017 R32 QF R16 R16
2016 R64 R16 R64 R32
2015 R32 QF R64 R32
2014 R32 R64 R128 R128
2013 R128 R64 R128 R64
2012 R128

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Dayana Yastremska Labels Controversial Twitter Photo A ‘Misunderstanding’

The world No.25 has been forced to delete photos from her social media accounts after a gesture to support anti-racism backfired.

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Ukrainian Tennis star Dayana Yastremska has been forced to remove a photo from social media and issue a statement after she was accused of being racially insensitive.

 

The 20-year-old tennis star attracted criticism on Thursday after uploading a photo of herself in different poses with the phrase ‘equality’ assigned to it. However, the images were controversial as they show Yastremska as half white and half back. Black facing, which is where a non-black person darker their skins to represent the race, has recently been under the spotlight in the wake of the Black Live Matter movement. Some episodes from TV shows such as The Mighty Boosh, Little Britain and The League of Gentlemen have been removed from online platforms due to the black facing of characters.

Screen shot of Yastremska’s now deleted Twitter photo

In the aftermath of posting the photo, two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka commented on Instagram ‘Girl I know you didn’t just do blackface,’ with a skull emoji. Osaka, who has a Japanese mother and Haitian father, has spoken publicly about her support for the Black Live Matter movement. Yastremska responded to the comment with a prayer emoji.

Yastremska removed her photos from Twitter and Instagram soon after she received backlash online, however, she insists that she never meant to cause any offence. Posting a statement on Twitter, the world No.25 apologize to those who she offended. Although she insists that her photo has been ‘misunderstood’ and she doesn’t consider it to be a ‘black face.’

“Earlier today I posted pictures that I thought would spread a message of equality. It clearly did not and has been misunderstood,” she wrote on Twitter yesterday.
“I have been warned about the negative impact but I did not — and still don’t — consider it a ‘black face’.
“I did not intend to caricature but to share my feelings about the current situation: we should all be treated as equal.
“I am so disappointed my message has been corrupted. I sincerely apologise to all the people I have offended.”

Former Wimbledon junior finalist Yastremska has won three WTA titles so far in her career and has earned more than $1.8 million in prize money. In January she reached a ranking high of 21st.

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WTA’s Restart Efforts Overshadowed By Likely Cancellation Of All Chinese Tournaments

Big blow dealt to the WTA calendar as Chinese Authorities cancel all international events in China for 2020, including the WTA Finals in Shenzhen.

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Group selfie at the WTA Championships in Shenzhen 2019 (photo Twitter @WTAFinals)

After many weeks of relative silence, the WTA had a very eventful day on Thursday releasing its revised mechanism for the calculation of the WTA Ranking and confirming some changes to its calendar. However, the organization managing the women’s pro tour had to face some terrible news coming from Asia, where the General Administration of Sport of China in an unexpected move decided to wipe away all international sports events in China, casting an ominous shadow over some of the most lucrative tournaments in the WTA calendar.

 

After the ATP announced on Monday a new ranking system based on results obtained in the last 22 months (from March 2019 to December 2020), the WTA unveiled a substantially similar system that allows players to maintain the points obtained in 2019 if they are unable or unwilling to participate to the corresponding tournament in 2020 or if they achieve a worse result in this year’s event. The only significant difference with the ATP’s new ranking system consists of allowing players to count only the best 16 results achieved in the considered 22-month window, while the men’s tour allows to count up to 18 results.

“In order to balance fairness and flexibility for all players, the WTA Rankings will generally follow the ‘Better of 2019 and 2020’ point model, in alignment with the ATP Tour,” the WTA said in a statement. “In reaching this decision, various elements were considered including the provisional 2020 revised calendar, various travel restrictions, varying levels of player comfort of traveling to compete, as well as the elimination of player commitment requirements for the remainder of 2020.”

Furthermore, the WTA announced two addition to its provisional 2020 calendar that sees professional tournaments resume on 3rd August with the Palermo Ladies Open in Palermo, Italy. In fact, on the week of 10th August there will be one new event on clay in Europe and one on hard courts in the USA: they will be the Prague Open in Prague, Czech Republic and the Bluegrass Orthopaedics in Lexington, Kentucky.

The former event was originally planned to take place in the spring and was tentatively included in an earlier draft of the new calendar, but then almost immediately dropped. The latter tournament replaces the WTA International Citi Open, due to take place in Washington, D.C. at the same time as the ATP 500 event.

“After an exhaustive effort collaborating with all of our stakeholders over many months, we committed to hosting the WTA tournament as part of our event in August so that we could provide playing opportunities for WTA players and continue to showdown women’s tennis to our community – said the Citi Open in a statement posted on their social media accounts – However, given the unique circumstances and requirements this year, we understand and support Octagon [that owns the rights to the event] and the WTA’s decision to hold the tournament as a completely separate event in 2020. We wish them and the local organizers in Lexington, Kentucky all the best for a safe and successful tournament. We still plan to present women’s tennis during this year’s Citi Open and look forward to hosting the women’s tournament in Washington, D. C. next year and long into the future”.

But the mood at the WTA Offices in St. Petersburg, Florida changed quickly when a press release coming from the Chinese press agency Xinhua announced a decision by the General Administration of Sport of China to cancel all international events due to be held in China in 2020, with the only exception of test events for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games. This seems to include all tennis tournaments planned for the months of September and October, in particular the WTA Premier 5 in Wuhan, the WTA Premier Mandatory in Beijing and above all the WTA Championships in Shenzhen, as well as the ATP Masters 1000 Shanghai Rolex Masters.

The WTA relies on the year-end WTA Championships for more than 60 percent of its annual turnover, and overall is extremely dependent on the revenues generated by its Chinese swing during the Fall. The lack of official comments from the WTA Headquarters seems to suggest the announcement came out of the blue and no contingency plan is presently in place to limit the effect of a complete cancellation of the Chinese tournaments.

At this late stage, it appears problematic to replace those big events with other tournaments in other locations around the world, not only for the difficulty to source a sufficient number of high-paying sponsors, but also due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that has led many countries to place heavy restrictions to international travel.

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