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15-year-old Bellis' unexpected US Open run ends

Bellis Out In Second Round

NEW YORK (AP) - Folks waited for hours Thursday to catch a glimpse of the latest tennis sensation, 15-year-old CiCi Bellis, the youngest player to win a match at the U.S. Open since 1996.

Once Bellis' second-round match began under the lights at Court 17, the overflow crowd cheered raucously for the home-schooled Californian who is ranked 1,208th and was playing in her first tour-level event.

Bellis started nervously, then won seven games in a row during one stretch, but in the end, was beaten 6-3, 0-6, 6-2 by 48th-ranked Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan.

That did not dampen Bellis' enthusiasm about the past few days, which included a first-round win against a woman who played in this year's Australian Open final.

"Like, this whole experience has been unbelievable. Like, mind-blowing," Bellis said. "It's been crazy. It's been, like, the best couple days of my life."

That makes sense, given her age - and the way she instantly became the sort of made-in-a-minute modern star who collects Twitter followers by the thousands and can't walk far without having items thrust at her for autographs.

The best thing she heard over the preceding 48-hour whirlwind?

"Just people saying that, like, I'm going to be the future of American tennis," Bellis said. "I mean, that's what I've wanted to be since, you know, I was a little kid."

Which amounts to the past eight or so years, she clarified.

After all, she's still young enough that she is entered in next week's junior tournament in New York.

"Maybe it didn't turn out how I wanted it to, but thank you, everybody, for coming out and watching," Bellis told the wildly supportive crowd in an on-court interview. "It was amazing. I mean, I never thought I'd be here."

Bellis earned a wild-card invitation from the U.S. Tennis Association by winning the USTA Girls' 18s National Championship, the youngest to do since Lindsay Davenport also won it at 15 in 1991.

On Tuesday, Bellis grabbed headlines by surprisingly eliminating 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova. That made the home-schooled Bellis the youngest player to win in New York since Anna Kournikova, 18 years ago.

"What surprised me," Bellis said, "is that I could really, like, stay with these pros."

Thursday's match was broadcast live on ESPN2, and Bellis did not start well. Heaving deep breaths before hitting serves, she got broken at love to fall behind 2-0 right away.

She was broken at love again to trail 5-3, and dropped that first set.

"In the beginning of the match, I was nervous and I was a little tight," Bellis acknowledged.

But she began playing more steadily - "freer" is the word she used - as the match went on, and after her shutout in the second set, she went up 1-0 in the third.

That, though, is where things began to unravel.

Bellis double-faulted to get broken and fall behind 2-1 in the final set, and started exhibiting some negative energy, yelling at herself and dropping her racket to the court.

At one point, she asked herself: "How many errors are you making?"

Later, Bellis appeared to hurt her left leg on a stumble, then sat in her changeover chair and clutched at that calf.

Diyas is only 20 years old, but that makes her a veteran by comparison. This was her 10th Grand Slam match, including a fourth-round run at Wimbledon.

"I'm very proud," said Leo Azevedo, a USTA coach who works with Bellis. "She did very well. I don't think Diyas can play any better."

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chefjohnp August 29 2014 at 11:14 AM

She's 15, let her be a kid. She has many years to hone her tennis abilities. She is still an ACE!

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pty014372 August 29 2014 at 10:47 AM

Since when is winning one match a "run"? Typical AOL hyperbole.

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cleds70 August 29 2014 at 2:26 PM

both girls had a good spirit, the young talent is awesome, remember to thank Christ for your many blessings 1 John 3:3

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1 reply
Murph 32 cleds70 August 30 2014 at 4:41 AM

"Both girls had a good spirit?" lol Did you seriously have nothing more substantive to add than that? It would appear all those church hymns have compromised your ability to think clearly, but to each his own I suppose.

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bhes98 August 29 2014 at 1:47 PM

She won one match. She'll improve in time. What made me ill was listening to the commentary of Chris Evert and Mary Jo Fernandez. These 2 are horrible!

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2 replies
bospiritofbo bhes98 August 29 2014 at 3:03 PM

Are you kidding? Sorry, but I just had to respond to your comment as it's kind of a pretty weird and distorted perception of these tow ladies. Evert was wonderful and very nice about the kid and letting her be just that and perhaps her tennis will develop...or not...but horrible? My, my!

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Murph 32 bhes98 August 30 2014 at 4:37 AM

Undoubtedly an all-time great player, but Chris Evert is indeed a terrible tennis commentator in general if you listen to her over time. That she's possesses a rather large ego and has always been on the self-absorbed side of things is well-documented and often shines through in her work while clouding her analyses. Sorry bo, some things are just facts whether you care to embrace them or not.

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CHANCE ELIJAH August 29 2014 at 12:26 PM

shes a sensation because she won one game? wth!!! stop building these no talent people up

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pdq87axy August 29 2014 at 11:17 AM

'Run'? She won one round. Geesh!

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Velocity105 August 29 2014 at 12:49 AM

Like... Like.... Yip, definitely a valley girl.

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ppeggold August 29 2014 at 10:19 AM

good to be confident bad to be arrogant. until she can compete with the likes of Williams,sharapova,azarenka etc she should tone down the arrogance pick up her skill level and think about the "believe" girl - what was her name? also be fair - Diyas beat her ass even with the crowd against her!

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Murph 32 August 29 2014 at 6:04 AM

It was a big upset and a great win for Bellis, but really, you'd think Cibulkova is the rough equivalent of Chris Evert in her prime the way the media has overhyped her "run" to the second round. Speaks volumes about just how hungry the American tennis scene is for anything to talk about beyond Serena Williams and just how long her uncanny excellence can continue (the Bryan brothers have themselves remained hugely successful into their late 30s, but the reality is even most die-hard tennis fans couldn't care less about doubles). Also hilarious to read her coach nonsensically state that the average Zarina Diyas couldn't have played any better when she was bageled in a 6-0 second set in which she obviously could have played MUCH better. You'd think folks would learn from past mistarts before getting emotionally involved in these "future of American tennis" type pronouncements, but people tend to insist on seeing what they want to see and that's just largely how the world operates.

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ga7smi August 29 2014 at 3:54 AM

a fluke

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2 replies
Trish Smith ga7smi August 29 2014 at 8:25 AM

It was NOT a fluke. She is a very good player. Could not believe she played such a flawless 2nd set. She is suffering from what most 15-year-olds suffer from, inexperience and that leads to being unable to handle the BIg Moments. She just has to mature and toughen up. Give the kid a break. Geesh!

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JEFF ga7smi August 29 2014 at 11:41 AM

she is not a fluke , she is 15 ! she had her 15minutes, now she goes back to learning
and getting better

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