Friday, December 28, 2018

After three surgeries, Bellis eyes return at Indian Wells

CiCi Bellis is shown during her 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 loss to No. 24 seed and defending
champion Elena Vesnina in the second round at Indian Wells in March. Bellis
played only one more match this year. Photo by Mal Taam
   This year can't end soon enough for CiCi Bellis.
   Three operations, two on her right wrist and one on her right elbow, in 2018 have derailed the 19-year-old phenom's career.
   Bellis, a San Francisco native, turned down a scholarship offer at Stanford, which borders her childhood home of Atherton, and launched her professional career in 2016. She reached a career-high No. 35 in August 2017 and was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year.
   But the petite 5-foot-7 (1.68-meter) right-hander's wrist already had begun bothering her in April 2017, she said last week on Tennis Channel.
   Facing -- and often beating -- bigger, stronger players took a massive toll on Bellis. She has been sidelined since losing 6-3, 6-0 to 6-foot (1.83-meter) Victoria Azarenka, formerly ranked No. 1, in the first round at Miami in March.
   "I think my body just wasn't ready for it," Bellis -- wearing a cast, colored red to celebrate the holidays, on her right forearm -- admitted in the interview at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, Fla. "I had things that needed to be addressed that had been hurting me for a while.
   "It's definitely good that I got it under my belt this year and I'm still able to have a protected ranking and hopefully be at the level I was and even better when I come back next year."
   Bellis underwent her first operation, on her wrist, on June 27 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. She said she hopes to return to competition in the BNP Paribas Open, March 4-17 in Indian Wells.
   Bellis has plunged to No. 130, but WTA rules will allow her to use her ranking of No. 44 when she last played to enter eight tournaments within one year of her return.
   Bellis said she avoided watching tennis for the first month or two of her layoff, during which she has gone hiking with her family and spent time with friends.
   "I've just been having kind of a normal life," Bellis said. "It's been nice to see that side of it, but I'm definitely ready to come back and play as soon as I can."
   Bellis can look to Juan Martin del Potro as a source of inspiration. A 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) right-hander with a two-handed backhand, the 30-year-old Argentine has rebounded from four wrist operations (three left and one right, all at the Mayo Clinic) to climb to No. 5, two notches below his career high. However, del Potro broke his right kneecap while falling during a match in Shanghai in October.
   Bellis hired Dieter Kindlmann, formerly with Madison Keys and Elise Mertens, as her coach, WTA Insider reported Wednesday. Bellis has been working with Anibal Aranda of the USTA.
   Bellis moved to Orlando, Fla., two years ago to train at the new USTA National Campus in the area. The move from California also allows her to avoid paying state income tax.

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