Sunday, July 7, 2019

After four operations, Bellis eyes return by U.S. Open

CiCi Bellis climbed to a career-high No. 35 two weeks after reaching the semi-
finals of the 2017 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, a five-minute drive from
her hometown of Atherton. 2017 photo by Mal Taam
   After four operations on her right wrist/forearm, CiCi Bellis said on a recent podcast that she hopes to play in the U.S. Open in late August.
   The petite 5-foot-7 (1.68-meter) right-hander 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 2018.
   The first surgery was to repair three tears in Bellis' wrist, the second to shave a bone in her elbow, the third to shorten a bone in her wrist and insert a plate, and the fourth to remove the plate.
    Bellis, a 20-year-old San Francisco Bay Area product, admitted that she contemplated retirement "multiple times" during her layoff.
   "After each surgery, I said to my family and friends, 'I can't believe I got through that,' " said Bellis, an Orlando, Fla., resident whose boyfriend is Sam Riffice, a University of Florida star from the Sacramento suburb of Roseville. "Each one, I was like, 'Oh, no, I'm not doing that. I'm done with tennis. I can't do this anymore. I'm not going to put my body through it.' Even before the first one, I was like, 'I'm not going to do it. It's not worth it.'
   "Especially before the third one, what I had to get done seemed so barbaric to me that I was like, 'This just can't be real.' But my gut told me to do it and try to come back."
   Bellis elaborated on the third operation.
   "They had had to break the bone in my forearm," she said. "They couldn't even shorten it from the top. They literally went in the middle, broke it, shortened it and reconnected it with a plate."
   Bellis first made headlines at 15 by stunning 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of the 2014 U.S. Open. Cibulkova had reached the final of the Australian Open that year, losing to since-retired Li Na.
   Bellis verbally committed to Stanford, a five-minute drive from her hometown of Atherton, but turned pro after reaching the third round of the 2016 U.S. Open as a qualifier. She reached a career-high No. 35 in August 2017 and was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year.
   Bellis' ordeal has given her second thoughts about rejecting a scholarship to Stanford.
   "There definitely have been times this year where I was like, 'Wow, this may not have happened if I (had gone) to college,' " she said. "I could have happened when I was playing juniors or at any point in my career, but honestly, just with the level I was playing at and the pace I was receiving each match, the hard hitting, my wrist finally just kind of snapped.
   "If I (had gone) to college, it wouldn't have been as much stress on my wrist. Obviously, I would have been practicing and training less. It definitely would have been a different path. Yeah, I've definitely thought about that a lot in the last year, but I've stuck to this choice, and I'm going to ride with it."

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