Bellis clinches year-end No. 1, advances at Metropolia Orange Bowl

December 13, 2014 04:28 PM

By Pat Mitsch,

PLANTATION, Fla. – CiCi Bellis added one more distinction to an already remarkable 2014 on Friday, clinching the International Tennis Federation’s year-end No. 1 world junior ranking.
The 15-year old Bellis toughed out a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 victory over fellow American Caroline Dolehide in the quarterfinals of the Metropolia Orange Bowl Junior Championships at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center, leapfrogging No. 1-ranked Shilin Xu of China for the year-end top spot.
Bellis, from Atherton, Calif., becomes the second American girl in the last three years to earn the ITF’s year-end No. 1 junior ranking for players ages 18 and under. Taylor Townsend clinched the distinction at the Orange Bowl in 2012, becoming the first American girl to be ranked No. 1 at the end of the year since Gretchen Rush in 1982. Donald Young was the last American boy to hold the year-end No. 1 ranking, in 2005.
The achievement caps a breakout 2014 for Bellis, who is primarily coached by her mother, Lori. She won this year’s USTA Girls’ 18s National Championship – the youngest to do so since a 15-year old Lindsay Davenport in 1991 – which earned her a wild card into the main draw of the US Open. Bellis then became an overnight sensation by defeating Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova in the first round, becoming the youngest player to win a US Open match since Anna Kournikova, also at 15, in 1996.
Bellis’ latest achievement didn’t come easy, though, as she battled the heavy-hitting Dolehide for two-plus hours until finally earning the critical break at 4-all in the third set.
“Thank God. To go through that to get it …” Bellis joked. “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.”
Afterward, Bellis was asked if anyone she’s played this fall, professional or junior, hits as hard as the 16-year old Dolehide, from Hinsdale, Ill., who reached the girls’ semifinals at the US Open.
“I don’t think so. She hits probably the hardest by far, 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 won’t get a respite in the semifinals, as she’ll meet No. 13 Sofia Kenin, of nearby Pembroke Pines. Kenin had a far easier time in her quarterfinal match, defeating No. 5 Elena Gabriela Ruse, of Romania, 6-3, 6-1. The other girls’ 18s semifinal features qualifier Ingrid Neel, of Rochester, Minn., who also turned in a seemingly routine victory on Friday, overcoming Canada’s Katherine Sebov, 6-2, 6-2. Neel will square off against Monika Kilnarova, of the Czech Republic.
One of the Boys’ 18s semifinals will be all-American as No. 2 seed Stefan Kozlov (Pembroke Pines) edged William Blumberg (Greenwich, Conn.), 7-6(4), 6-4, and Reilly Opelka (Palm Coast, Fla.) beat No. 9 Alex Rybakov (Coral Springs, Fla.), 7-5, 6-3. The other Boys’ 18s semifinal is all-international, as the lanky Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 6-3, 6-4 victor over No. 3 Taylor Fritz (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.), will meet top-seeded Andrey Rublev, of Russia, who edged No. 5 Michael Mmoh (Bradenton, Fla.), 6-3, 7-5, on Friday.
Both 16s singles titles will be decided on Saturday, as No. 2 seed Sam Riffice, of Roseville, Calif., attempts to become only the second boy to win both the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl 16s titles in the same year, dating back to 1992. The only other player to do that was current Top 15 standout Grigor Dimitrov, in 2006.
“It would be unbelievable,” Riffice said. “These are definitely two of the biggest tournaments of the year I could play, so to win both of them would be great. I think I’ve just been really successful these last couple of weeks, because I’ve just grown, physically. I’ve been working a lot on my fitness, and it’s been really helping me in my game.”
Riffice will meet No. 10 seed Mattias Siimar, of Estonia, in Saturday’s Boys’ 16s final, while No. 11 Dominique Schaefer, of Peru, will meet Canada’s Bianca Vanessa Andreescu, the No. 8 seed, in the Girls’ 16s final.
The 16s doubles champions were crowned on Friday, as Americans Emma Decoste (Stuart, Fla.) and Kariann Pierre-Louis (Miami) beat the top seeds, Colombia’s Sofia Munera Sanchez and Peru’s Camila Vargas Gomez, 6-1, 7-5. India’s Basil Khuma and Canada’s Christian Lakoseljac beat the No. 8-seeded Estonian pair of Mattias Siimar and Kristofer Siimar, 6-3, 6-4, for the Boys’ 16s doubles title.

Click here for Friday's results.

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