American tennis may have a reason to end the search for a new teenage sensation, as 15-year-old CiCi Bellis became the youngest player to win a match at the US Open since 1996 on Tuesday.
The amateur stunned the Flushing Meadows crowd to defeat 12th seed and 2014 Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in her first ever Grand Slam match.
Russian Anna Kournikova had held the record of being the last 15-year-old to win a match at the New York tournament, and it had been even longer since an American of that age had won there, as Mary Joe Fernandez reached the third round in 1986.
It is expected that Bellis’ world ranking will soar by approximately 800 positions at the end of the tournament, as she is currently ranked at 1,208, but she managed to qualify for the final Grand Slam of the year by winning the American girls 18’s nationals, and she was even the youngest player to win that event in 23 years.
An unlikely route
Bellis was then granted a wildcard into the US Open, though it was unlikely that she would beat a player ranked 1,195 places above her.
Despite only having played 12 lower ITF circuit matches, she will now prepare for a second round match against world number 48 Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, though she will not be able to pick up any prize money due to her status as an amateur.
The teenager was overwhelmed with emotion after her shock victory, and was impressed with the support she was given on Court Six.
"I'm feeling amazing," she said. "I'm still speechless. I'm still in shock about that match.
"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.
“I had like four friends that started some of the chants. I was like, 'Oh, my God!' I loved it. It made me play even better."
While she is looking forward to her next match, the California-born player is still unlikely to take up a professional tennis career in the near future over the chance of completing her studies.
"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."
It has been a depressing year for American tennis in Grand Slams, as no male or female singles player has reached the quarter-finals of a major, including women’s world number one Serena Williams.
Ironically, Bellis was born in the same year that Williams won her first US Open title in 1999, and she could spring new hope to American fans, who have become frustrated with the state of the sport in what was previously seen as the most powerful tennis nation, and no male American player has won a Grand Slam since Andy Roddick in 2003.
There were no other major shocks during the day session on day two, as men’s fifth seed David Ferrer beat Bosnian Damir Dzumhur to advance to the third round, and women’s seventh and 16th seeds Eugenie Bouchard and Victoria Azarenka advanced with wins over Olga Govortsova and Misaki Doi respectively.
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