Bellis leads 2015 Team USA National Junior Team

May 13, 2015 02:31 PM

By Sally Milano,

The best junior girls in the United States are getting an opportunity to get even better.

Sixteen-year-old CiCi Bellis of Atherton, Calif., and 14-year-old Claire Liu of Thousand Oaks, Calif., are among eight girls selected for the 2015 Team USA National Junior Team, a training program designed to give America’s best young players opportunities to train together during the summer and to compete against other top juniors from around the world. The boys’ team will be selected at a later date.

Players were selected for the team based on automatically qualifying or through results in a qualifying playoff, held last week at the USTA Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla. Complete information on the selection criteria can be found here.

Joining Bellis and Liu on the team are: Carson Branstine, 14, from Orange, Calif.; Kelly Chen, 16, from Cerritos, Calif.; Kayla Day, 15, from Santa Barbara, Calif.; Michaela Gordon, 15, from Los Altos Hills, Calif.; Kylie McKenzie, 16, from Anthem, Ariz.; and Alexandra Sanford, 16, from Westerville, Ohio.

Bellis, Chen, Gordon and Liu were automatic qualifiers for the team, while Branstine, Day, McKenzie and Sanford qualified through the playoff.

USTA Player Development will provide coaching and travel assistance to select events throughout the summer, including junior Grand Slam tournaments and the USTA Girls’ 18s National Championships in San Diego.

Bellis finished the 2014 season as the No. 1 junior in the world rankings and was named the ITF World Junior Champion for the year. She also was the breakout star of the 2014 US Open after upsetting No. 12 Dominika Cibulkova in the first round to become the youngest women’s player to win a main-draw match in Flushing Meadows since Anna Kournikova in 1996.

Liu (pictured above) also made history recently. In March, she won her first professional singles title at a $10,000 event in Orlando, Fla., in the process becoming the youngest female player to win a USTA Pro Circuit tournament since Kournikova in 1996 and the sixth youngest to do so since the Circuit’s inception in 1979.

Gordon was a 2014 Wimbledon junior quarterfinalist, who moved into the Top 30 of the ITF World Junior Rankings this year. Chen, at 15, won her first USTA Pro Circuit title at a $10,000 event last July in Austin, Texas, and was this year’s USTA Girls’ 18s Winter national champion.

McKenzie, the reigning USTA Girls’ 16s national champion, reached the girls’ 18s semifinals at the prestigious Easter Bowl in April. Day was the runner-up to McKenzie at the 2014 USTA Girls’ 16s Nationals and won the 2013 Girls’ 14s national title.

Sanford reached the semifinals of the 2014 USTA Girls’ 16s National Championships and won a Grade 2 clay-court junior event in Chile this February. Branstine swept the singles and doubles titles at the Evert American ITF junior tournament last fall.