The 20-year-old American Catherine "CiCi" Bellis will finally return to the court in November after being sidelined for more than a year and a half. Bellis hasn't played since Miami 2018 when she won just three games against Victoria Azarenka in the first round, enduring many obstacles after that and finally preparing to hit the court again at the Oracle Challenger Series 125K tournament in Houston from November 11.
Recognized as one of the most promising players of the new generation, Bellis finished 2014 as the year-end no.1 junior at the age of 15 and also the youngest top-100 player on the WTA list in 2016 and the top-50 a year later!
Back in October 2014, CiCi won two professional titles in back-to-back weeks, followed by another one in 2015, setting even higher goals for 2016 when she had a breakthrough run that propelled her inside the top-100. After reaching the final on the ITF level in Surprise, Bellis got the opportunity to make a debut in Miami before winning her fourth pro crown in June, backed by the quarter-final run at the WTA event in Stanford where Venus Williams halted her progress.
The best was yet to come at the US Open where the youngster qualified for the main draw and reached the third round, losing to Angelique Kerber and stealing the spotlight of the world's tennis scene before closing the season with 14 straight ITF wins for the place inside the top-100.
The start of 2017 season was not that good as CiCi had to skip the entire Australian swing due to a left leg injury, returning in Doha and reaching the quarters in Dubai after a top-5 win over Agnieszka Radwanska. Following an opening-round loss at Indian Wells and Monterrey (it is where her elbow problems started), Bellis found her form on clay and reached the third round at Roland Garros before the semi-final in Mallorca on grass.
In Stanford, CiCi demolished Petra Kvitova for another semi-final run, losing the form after that to suffer five straight defeats at the end of the season, competing under painkillers and not treating her elbow in the right manner and at right doctors.
Nonetheless, Bellis was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year as the youngest player in the top-50 and was determined to make another strong run in 2018. The youngster reached the quarter-final in Doha although some dark clouds were gathering over her career, threatening to destroy her outstanding progress in the last couple of years.
That elbow started to hurt badly again in Dubai and CiCi couldn't play at her best in March, winning just three games against Victoria Azarenka at the beginning of Miami and not playing ever since. Unable to recover without some more drastic moves, Bellis decided to undergo a surgery at the end of June last year and had to go with another one to resolve the problems and start competing again, doing her best to get back at 100% and achieving her goal in the last couple of months.
"Everything is going well at the moment," Bellis said. "I have gotten to the point where I'm practicing normally and I have done a lot of rehab in the past year or more; things are looking pretty positive.
I love tennis so much, and it has been my life for so long. I would miss it so much if I wasn't playing. It's been so amazing for me to be back in my normal practice routine and that is what motivated me from day one of when I had to get my first surgery, knowing that I would be able to get back to playing.
If everything goes well and I'm feeling good, I hope I will be able to play my first tournament in about three weeks ahead of the Australian swing. It was tough going into each surgery and thinking that I would have to do the rehab all over again, but at this point, I'm pretty positive because I'm getting closer to tournaments.
Getting back on the practice court after each surgery and still having pain and realizing that something was still wrong and that I have to go back for another surgery and do it all over again, I think that was probably the toughest part.
I had a lot of times where I didn't know if it was ever going to feel right or if I was ever going to be able to play pain-free, something I started to realize some four or five months ago."