Catherine Bellis Going Pro on WTA Tour

Catherine Bellis, the teenaged American, has declined a collegiate tennis career to play on the WTA ranks.

Catherine Bellis, a seventeen year old American, has been on the tennis radar for a few years now. She first made significant headlines at the 2014 US Open when, with a ranking outside of the Top 1200, she defeated 13th-ranked Dominika Cibulkova. More recently, Bellis made headlines following her decision to turn professional.

On September 13th the American tweeted:


The decision affects her eligibility to play NCAA tennis. Once a player commits to turning professional, their amateur status is forever revoked. Giving up the opportunity to attend a major university with all/most expenses paid (Bellis was lined up to play for Stanford) is what can make the decision about whether or not to turn pro early a difficult one.

However, Bellis’ recent WTA/Grand Slam results certainly merit turning pro at the young age of 17. She is still only ranked 120th in the world, however she plowed through three rounds of qualifying at the US Open before winning two main-draw matches. One of the wins from Flushing Meadows came over Shelby Rogers, the American that made the French Open quarterfinals. There are players better than Rogers on tour, however if you can beat her then you can hold your own in a lot of WTA events.

Earlier this summer Bellis defeated a Top-40 player in Jelena Ostapenko and Bellis won an ITF event in straight sets back in June. If you tried to look at who the best player that Bellis has beaten to date, you might lean toward Cibulkova. However, Bellis has career wins over Johanna Konta and Zarina Diyas, two players that still have a lot of years ahead of themselves on tour.

Furthermore, Bellis also has a win over Kimiko Date-Krumm, arguably the most-proven player the American has beaten. Date-Krumm made the World No. 4 ranking a few years before Bellis was born.

While the decision to turn pro will likely work out for Bellis in my view, perhaps the following names might cause some American tennis fans to knock on wood: Melanie Oudin and Michelle Larcher de Brito. Those are two teenaged sensations that burst onto the scene in 2009 only to fizzle out in the years that have since followed.

Oudin, at the age of 17, propelled herself into the spotlight with a run to the US Open quarterfinals in 2009. The then-teenager defeated Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova, and Nadia Petrova en route to the quarters, a trio of players that even the best in the world would have a tough time with in three consecutive matches. There hasn’t been much of Oudin in the good-news column since the 2009 US Open.

Likewise, with de Brito, tennis fans were introduced to the rising Portuguese national at the 2009 French Open when she made the third round as a sixteen year old. By then she had long been “tipped for the top by those in the know” however she’s now 23 and her potential still remains untapped (Guy McCrea/Betfair/November 4th, 2009).

Teenagers turned pro don’t always turn out so it will be interesting to follow Bellis and see what path her own career takes in the years ahead.

Shane Lambert
    • Maz

      Kimiko would have beaten Bellis hollow if she had been properly fit .