Tennis

Cici Bellis clinches No.1 world junior ranking at Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships

Cici Bellis had to battle for the second day in a row at the Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships, but the payoff was worth it for the 15-year-old rising American star.

Bellis clinched the No.1 world junior ranking by beating fellow American and friend Caroline Dolehide 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in the quarterfinals at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation.

Bellis leapfrogged No.1-ranked Shilin Xu of China for the year-end ranking.

It was the latest accolade in a huge year for Bellis, who made a splash at the U.S. Open, where she beat Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova in the first round, becoming the youngest player to win a U.S. Open match since Anna Kournikova in 1996.

Bellis also won the USTA 18s national title, the youngest girl to do that since Lindsay Davenport in 1991.

“Thank God. To go through that to get it …,” Bellis said.

“But I’m really glad, I’m really happy that I could, because that’s one of the main reasons I played these two tournaments [Orange Bowl and Eddie Herr], and I’m really happy that I could do it.”

Bellis praised Dolehide, a 16-year-old from Hinsdale, Illinois, who advanced to the junior semifinals at the U.S. Open.

“She hits probably the hardest by far [of the players she faced this fall], I think,” Bellis said.

“She’s such a great player, and her serve is amazing. She should have been one of the top seeds, I think. We just talked about it when we were walking off the court.

“We were like, ‘That was at least a semifinal, if not a final match.’ To get her in the quarters, that’s a really tough draw for both of us, but it was good.”

Bellis will play Pembroke Pines’ Sofia Kenin in the semifinals.

The other semifinal will feature Ingrid Neel of Rochester, Minnesota, against Monika Kilnarova of the Czech Republic.

In the Boys 18s semifinals, No.2 seed Stefan Kozlov of Pembroke Pines will play Reilly Opelka, a 6-10 unseeded player from Palm Coast riding a wave of confidence after winning the Eddie Herr title.

Top-seeded Andrey Rublev of Russia will play Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the other semifinal.

The Boys 16s final will be between No.2 seed Sam Riffice of Roseville, California, and No.10 Mattias Siimar of Estonia.

On the girls’ side, Dominique Schaefer of Peru will play Bianca Vanessa Andreescu of Canada.

Also on Friday, Emma Decoste of Stuart and Kariann Pierre-Louis of Miami beat the top seeds, Colombia’s Sofia Munera Sanchez and Peru’s Camila Vargas Gomez, 6-1, 7-5, in the Girls 16s doubles final.

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