It’s easy to be cynical as a sportswriter. Believe me, I have been in this business for 12 years and it hardens you.
You no longer root for the teams you grow up with. Instead you root for your story.
Sometimes, that story can be heartwarming.
This Open, the CiCi Bellis story would put a smile on the crabbiest person.
Today, the 17 year-old roared into the third round by beating fellow American Shelby Rogers , 2-6 6-2 6-2.
“I think in the first set I didn’t have a lot of rhythm,” Bellis said. “The points were kind of quick. Couldn’t really get my feet involved in my game very much.
“In the second, I just told myself from the beginning my feet need to be way fast faster, I need to be way sharper to comeback and win that. Obviously she’s such a great player. I lost to her before.
“I think just being really focused and getting my feet involved and getting really pumped up is how I did it.”
Two years ago Bellis, as a 15 year-old, made it into the second round. She lost in the qualifier last year and made it through the prelims last week to qualify for the main draw.
So, she is playing with some house money and that’s what makes it so exciting. And the people are noticing. Bellis today, had a rooting section in the New Grandstand, who started following her around last week.
“They came out to first-round qualifying and have been to every single one of my matches since.,” she said. “One of them messaged me on Instagram and asked for tickets, and so I got them into my box today. Yeah, I guess we’re getting closer. Yeah, they are a great group. Oh, my god. They call themselves Team CiCi, so it was fun.”
After today, Team CiCi seems to be growing.
Seeing the Open through this young girl’s eyes makes it so much more enjoyable. Her wide eye innocence and great personality just makes it so much better.
And now on the big stage in New York, she has become a performer.
“I think it puts me in like a different world, she said. “I feel like I’m not even here when I hear people like that group we were talking about. It’s surreal to me. But it’s so amazing.”
After the first round she moved into a suite at her hotel and joked that maybe now she will be in the presidential suite.
And that experience two years ago made her into the tennis player we are seeing today. She looks at her game and can easily break it down.
“I think it wasn’t necessarily strategy or strategical, but I think it was just different shots and shot selection,” Bellis said. “Last time I played her it was three sets, too. It came down to — I mean, I can’t say a couple points in the last match because she beat me pretty bad in the third set.
“Yeah, it was just a few shots that I think I’d — say, like she had me on the run. Say I went for a down the line in the last match; I’d go for a cross-court heavy in this match and then would end up winning that point just because I played that shot a little bit smarter this time.”
Now the big test comes. Bellis will be facing No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber, a match that will probably move her to Arthur Ashe on Friday. She never faced the German before, but she isn’t afraid.
“She’s 2 in the world obviously and an amazing player,” she said. “It will be a lot of fun for me. I haven’t put much thought into it yet. I’ll think about it tomorrow or in a couple days when my match is closer.”
Oh she will be ready as will the growing group known as Team CiCi.