Tennis: Teen tennis star's $144,000 decision

17-year-old Catherine 'CiCi' Bellis. Photo / Getty
17-year-old Catherine 'CiCi' Bellis. Photo / Getty

Stanford tennis coach Lele Forood called CiCi Bellis to congratulate her on her fairytale run to the third round of the U.S. Open, where she will face off against world number 2 Angelique Kerber on Saturday.

"She's Kerber No. 2 in the world obviously and an amazing player," Bellis said.

"It will be a lot of fun for me, but I'm more focused on me than her."

However, if the 17-year-old California native pulls off another shocker, Forood might not get the chance to coach her prized recruit.

Bellis, a high school senior, takes online classes and was expected to sign a letter of intent with Stanford University in November, but her successes in the 2016 and 2014 Opens as an amateur have provided a hiccup of sorts.

"Yeah, nothing's set in stone," Bellis said after a practice session this week.

"We'll see how the rest of the year and tournament goes."

The NCAA has strict rules regarding athletes being paid for their play. Last year, the NCAA started allowing athletes to earn up to US$10,000 in prize money.

After three qualifying match victories, Bellis has technically already racked up $144,000. If she keeps it, Stanford is out of the question.

For now, Bellis is delighted playing out of love for the sport and is basking in the Open's atmosphere.

"I love the whole atmosphere at this tournament, and hardcourts are my favourite surface," Bellis said. "I just play well here. All the people who come out and watch me helps me a lot. If I didn't have the support, I don't know if I'd be doing as well as I am right now."

Bellis first rose to prominence as a 15-year-old in 2014, when she scored a first round victory over number 12 seed Dominika Cibulkova, becoming the youngest player to win a match at Flushing Meadows in 18 years.

Last year she lost her final qualifying match and didn't make the main draw, but this year she has advanced through.

"I think I have earned my way in the tournament this time rather than last time I won the National Hardcourts, but it's different," Bellis said. "I think getting through qualifying means a lot more.

"It means so much more to me now. I got through two rounds. A couple years ago, I got through one, but getting through two, passing qualifying, was huge for me. It's really, really big."

- NZ Herald

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