Nerves are expected after a long layoff from the professional tour – especially when a player sees success early in her career, and injuries temporarily derail a positive trajectory. This was the case with 20-year-old American CiCi Bellis, who fought through a rocky qualifying match in Houston Sunday to earn her way into the main draw.
“It feels great,” she said after taking out fellow American Alexa Glatch 6-4, 6-3. “Definitely was tough today as the first match back, but I’m glad to be back and ready to get on to the next one.”
After not converting two break points in the first game of the match, Bellis lost her serve at love to go down 0-2, but regained her composure to win six out of the next eight games to take the first set. In the second, she went up an early break just to see Glatch level the score at 3-3. Bellis fought hard to close out the match, breaking Glatch twice in a row in multiple-deuce games to win.
“(The nerves and rust) are going to be here for the next few tournaments. Today was pretty ugly tennis, but I’m glad I got through it. Everything is going to go up from here.”
After the match, emotions were flowing for Bellis, as she hugged her coach Tom Gutteridge and USA Fed Cup Captain Kathy Rinaldi, who was watching excitedly from the sidelines.
Since playing her last match at Miami in 2018, Bellis has had a tough year and a half. A wrist injury led to multiple serious surgeries, and the former World No.35 was questioning whether or not she’d be able to compete again at the highest level.
Now, after winning her first match back, she faces Australian Ellen Perez in the first round on Monday. It’s been a long road back, and she knows it will take time, but her joy to be back on court competing is evident.
“I’m just really happy. It’s been awhile. I was definitely ready to be back, ready to be traveling again. I’m so happy to be out here.”