CiCi Bellis' breakout season has shown no signs of slowing down up in Canada. Making her Rogers Cup debut this year, the Californian earned a hard-fought win over an in-form Julia Goerges in the first round and then scored her second Top 10 win of the season, beating No.8 Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 7-5 to advance to the Round of 16.
"I think I played really well today," Bellis said after the win. "Obviously I told myself I had to because she's unbelievable, so I'm really happy with it."
With Wednesday's win over Kuznetsova, Bellis is now 2-0 vs Top 10 opponents in 2017, having beaten Agnieszka Radwanska, then ranked No.6, at the Dubai Tennis Championships in February. On a tour with a bevy of talented teenagers, Bellis is the youngest player with a Top 10 win this year. Since 2010, Bellis and Belinda Bencic are the only players aged 18 or under with multiple Top 10 wins in the same season.
At 18-years-old, Bellis has already proven herself to be a mature competitor with a preternaturally intelligent eye for the game. In addition to her Top 10 wins, Bellis has beaten Petra Kvitova (Stanford), Timea Bacsinszky (Rabat), Kiki Bertens (Roland Garros), and Carla Suárez Navarro (Mallorca).
In all, Bellis is second to only World No.1 Karolina Pliskova in win percentage against the Top 50 (minimum 10 matches played) this season:
Best Winning Percentage vs. Top 50 in 2017 (minimum of 10 matches):
1. Ka.Pliskova: .800 (28-7)
2. Bellis: .765 (13-4)
3. Halep: .740 (20-7)
4. Svitolina: .714 (15-6)
Bellis' rise has been rapid and it has been impressive. Now ranked No.36, Bellis was outside the Top 200 in mid-July of last year and outside the Top 100 as recently as the start of November.
Her Top 100 debut finally came on the strength of her first two tour-level quarterfinals - at her hometown tournament at the Bank of the West Classic and the Coupe Banque Nationale in Québec City - and her best run at a major, making the third round of the US Open as a qualifier.
This year, Bellis won't have to qualify for her home Slam, the one that saw her name-making win over Dominika Cibulkova as a 15-year-old in 2014. Now ranked No.36, the talented teenager is on the verge of securing a seeding at the US Open this year.
"I think I've grown up a lot and matured a lot in the last year," Bellis said. "This is technically my job, even if it doesn't feel like a job. When I was going to college I wasn't really playing for myself yet and I think now it's on me. A lot of things I do independently. So I like that a lot."
Bellis credits her 2017 form to her improved fitness. Last summer she was set to commit and play collegiate tennis at Stanford University but changed her mind after a surge up the rankings in the fall. She is now based in Orlando, Florida and trains at the new USTA National Campus at Lake Nona.
"My coach and I have been working really hard, we've been working really hard with the fitness trainers to make sure my body doesn't get injured," Bellis said. The work has paid off, as Bellis' confidence in her ability to keep up physically with the game's top players has soared.
"I think I get less tired easily," she said. "I think I'm more aggressive on the big points. Calmly and confidently more aggressive."