Tag Archives: Cici Bellis

A 16-year-old and a 44-year-old played tennis against each other at the Open Tuesday, and I got to watch. Daniel LaRusso the true villain of “The Karate Kid?” And a reporter accidentally makes a 4-year-old cry


It’s that most wonderful time of year for me, late August, which means the U.S. Open is here, and the next three weeks will be nothing but bliss (Yeah there will be more tennis than usual in this space the next few weeks.)

I’m going as a fan and as a journalist this week to the qualifying tournament, the best bargain in sports (free). My guy Reilly Opelka, the 6-foot-10, 17-year-old phenom I’ve written about here before, is trying to qualify for the men’s draw, and in two weeks will be a favorite to win the boys junior event as well.

I cannot express in words how much I love the Open, for reasons just like this one: Tuesday I saw a 16-year-old play 2.5 hours of scintillating tennis against a 44-year-old.

Seriously. Cici Bellis (above) just turned 16, and Kimiko Date-Krumm is about to be 45. There are TWENTY-EIGHT years between them (or as a wag on Twitter pointed out, a whole Maria Sharapova between them).

I had fun thinking of the huge generational gap between them during the match: Date-Krumm was three years into her first career retirement when Bellis was born. Nixon was President when Date-Krumm was born; Bill Clinton when Cici hatched.

And on and on (Believe me, I bored the people sitting next to me with more trivia, you’re the lucky ones.) Anyway, it was the kind of match you only see in tennis, with an age gap like that (and I’m certain that’s a record for biggest gap between opponents).

Date-Krumm started out fast, winning the first set before, oh, 200 fans. Bellis, who made a big splash by winning a round at last year’s Open, dominated the second set. The third set was tight, there was a truly horrible call by the chair umpire at a crucial point at 4-all, and Bellis won.

It was great. And wonderful to see a player at the start of her career face a player at the end, and for a couple of hours, they were pretty much equal.

God I love tennis. God I love the U.S. Open.

**Next up today, this is bloody brillant and hilarious. A man named J. Matthew Turner has given us a fantastic “alternate reality” version of “The Karate Kid,” arguing in a compelling (and superbly funny) way that Johnny and the Cobra Kai aren’t the real villains of the movie, that it’s actually punk, sociopath Daniel who deserves our boos.

If you love this movie as much as I do, you’ll be side-splittingly laughing at least 3-4 times (especially the Halloween party scene analysis).

**Finally today, you know I love reporters, so I feel badly when they accidentally screw up. Then I laugh about it like everyone else.

This poor woman from KTLA in Los Angeles was interviewing Andrew, a 4-year-old, on his first day of pre-K classes. Andrew was doing great until the reporter, Courtney Friel, asked about missing his mom.

And then, the waterworks started.

Nice job, lady. Why don’t you tell Andrew the truth about Santa and the Easter Bunny while you’re at it.

No worries, Andrew’s Mom, a real hero, gave him a hug off-camera a few seconds later.

A 15-year-old star is born at the U.S. Open, and it was glorious. And a great new Gatorade ad starring Peyton Manning


Remember age 15? I sure do. I was in 10th grade, a shy, geeky-looking kid just hoping to make the varsity tennis team, maybe get Christina Leone to like me, and desperate to avoid failing math.

I’m guessing 15 was like that for most of us. But 15 was a little different Tuesday for Cici Bellis, a teenager who went from curiosity and upstart with potential to the major story of the U.S. Open in just a matter of a few hours.

I saw a lot of great tennis live at the U.S. Open Tuesday; I saw Kei Nishikori and Eugnie Bouchard and dozens of others. But a 15-year-old homeschooled kid from San Francisco, and her incredible poise and shotmaking is what I’ll remember years from now.

Bellis was on an outer court at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Tuesday, a court that could hold maybe 400 spectators, and there were no TV cameras present at the start of her match.
She had gotten this opportunity to make her Open debut years ahead of schedule, by winning the U.S. nationals earlier this summer.
But she was due to play No. 12 seed Dominika Cibulkova, who was a former Australian Open finalist and a much more seasoned player. Clearly, the moment and the opponent would overwhelm Bellis.

Only it didn’t. Different performers respond to first-time pressure in different ways. Some shrink from it, cowed by the expectations and the stage. Others… they embrace the hell out of it.

Bellis was spectacular in her first major “stage” appearance. She raced out to a 6-1 first set, faltered in the second set, 6-4, then fell down 3-1 in the third as the crowd swelled to a mass of people.
It looked like she was gassed. But she rallied, and tied the set at 3, and suddenly the crowd was going nuts, and this 15-year-old sprite of a player with powerful strokes and a bigger-than-you’d-think serve was nailing winners, adorably pumping herself up with both arms fist-pumping at once, and grabbing a 4-3 lead.
All of a sudden ESPN cut live to the match, and Bellis went on to a 6-4 win, and she jumped up and down after match point, and we all hooted and hollered, and Bellis ran over and hugged her parents and her coach (she didn’t have far to go, it was a small court!), and now Wednesday she’ll be all over the sports pages and websites as America’s newest tennis sweetheart.

And she’s 15 years old. She was still in diapers when 9/11 happened, just for some context.

You hope this isn’t the highlight of her tennis life, that she continues to improve and maybe wins a Slam one day.

You hope that Tuesday was Day 1 on a remarkable tennis career. I feel lucky I was there to see it. Because it was so cool to be a part of.


**Finally today, Peyton Manning’s football talent is equalled by his awesomeness at acting. He’s always great on SNL, always great on commercials (I still laugh at his “Tommy, you’re my favorite accountant!” ad).

I saw Manning’s new Gatorade ad yesterday, and it cracked me up, as he and a gas station attendant decide if a woman has “sweated enough” to deserve to buy a Gatorade.