Photo captions: Top: CiCi playing at the 2016 US Open. Bottom: CiCi in 2006 at the San Francisco City Championships, 12 & under division at Golden Gate Park Tennis Center
By Minnie Wong, Treasurer, Tennis Coalition SF Board of Directors
Back with us this month (read October interview here) is an up-and-coming American WTA tennis player who turned professional in September, and who with a 15-match win streak, just won her maiden WTA tournament at the Hawaii Open in November, as well as both the $50k ITF titles in Toronto and Saguenay. Her name is CiCi Bellis and though she now finds herself based out of the USTA training facility in Boca Raton and traveling to pro tournaments all around, her roots are in San Francisco. Currently finishing up her senior year of high school and now ranked a career-high #75 as of November 28, she was able to sit down and graciously take time from her busy schedule to answer some questions for us. Hope you enjoy!
1. What is a typical day like in the life of CiCi Bellis?
7:45 Leave for courts
8:15 Pre-tennis fitness
9:00 to 11:30 Drilling on court
11:30 to 2:00 Stretch, lunch, school, relax
2:00 to 4:00 Match play and additional drilling
4:00 to 5:30 Fitness, stretch, recovery
6:00 Shower, dinner, school, relax
2. How do you balance schoolwork, tennis, and a social life?
It's very hard. I'm so tired by the end of the day that I can barely think let alone tackle six classes. But, I always kept up my school at a 4.0 level with the idea that I was going to go to Stanford. Now that I am a pro it's still not any easier. I have one year of high school left and don't want to go below a 4.0 for some reason. I care about my grades too much.
3. Any tips for juniors who want to be the next CiCi Bellis?
Yes, there's no secret to being great. It requires one thing - hard work - day in and day out. In all the years I've been playing, I never just took a Tuesday or a Wednesday off to go to the beach or mall. In fact, when I was younger I never even took a day off each week. I do now and it seems like a luxury. I never considered a rainy day as an opportunity not to play. I always found a way to play no matter the weather and where I was. Even when I've had some injuries here and there, I used the time to work on some other area of my game that needed work. I would play left handed if I had to just to be on court every day. I've shadowed whole practices just to keep my movement to the ball sharp. You have to do more each day to distinguish yourself from the other players and you have to believe in the way you train. Everyone's game needs different things but if you don't believe in what you are doing then the practices will not help you.
4. What is the most interesting item a fan has asked you to sign?
A man once asked me to sign his bare chest!
5. What is your favorite inspirational quote?
Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can do what others can't. -- anonymous
The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow. -- anonymous
Champions believe in themselves even when no one else does. -- anonymous
Somewhere behind the athlete you've become, and the hours of practice, and the coaches who have pushed you, is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back...play for her. -- Mia Hamm
6. What is your favorite tennis drill?
It's actually called the "CiCi" drill. Now that I think of it, I must love it because it reminds me of playing on the wood court at the Metropolitan Club in San Francisco. I stand inside the baseline and take everything early. My coach or whoever I am hitting with that day hits with a good amount of pace and I work on absorbing that pace and then waiting for a short ball to put away to the corners. Best drill ever and perfect for practicing the way I want to play.
7. We're working to build a new Golden Gate Park Tennis Center; how important do you think having public courts to play on is to the future of American tennis and just the public in general?
I think it is incredibly important. The park can be every child's own personal academy. You don't need to spend a lot of money to be good at tennis and you don't need to live anywhere special. You need a court and people to practice with and that's the beauty of public park tennis. There's always someone to play with.
8. When this project is finished and we have a new Golden Gate Park Tennis Center, will you come and play an exhibition match?
I can't wait! Give me a date and time and I will be there.