Cici Bellis aiming for a return in Houston

American Cici Bellis hasn’t played a competitive match since losing to Victoria Azarenka in the first round of the 2018 Miami Open, more than 18 months ago.

After four surgeries on her wrist and elbow, she plans to finally return at the WTA 125K in Houston next month.

“If everything goes well and I’m feeling good, hopefully I’ll be able to play my first tournament in about three weeks, then the Australian swing,” Bellis told USTA.com.

The story outlines a daily routine that includes 45 minutes of exercises just for her arm, a regular warmup, two hours of practice, lunch, two more hours of practice, 90 minutes of fitness, an hour of rehab and then another half hour of recovery.

That’s a lot of hours of practice, even for a healthy player.

Bellis said she only began hitting pain-free about three months ago.

Injury nightmare for CiCi Bellis

A lot of matches in the arm

Bellis put a ton of mileage on her tennis odometer at a very young age. She started on the pro circuits at age 14, and also added in a ton of junior tennis to pile up the matches despite the WTA’s age-eligibility rules.

It had to take a toll on a fairly frail body type. She is a perfect example of why those age-eligibility rules are so important.

Bellis reached a career high WTA Tour ranking of No. 35 just before the 2017 US Open, when she was 18.

She became the world No. 1 junior in Sept. 2014, although she never won or reached the final at a junior Grand Slam. But the American won a ton of tournaments, and barely lost a match in U.S. junior events. 

Bellis is still only 20; she’s had a pretty tough go of it for a player who got so much early attention and has had so much success.

Hopefully all these early issues are behind her, and she can resume her career and get back to where she was – pain free.

She’ll be playing with a protected singles ranking of No. 43, which will get her into pretty much any tournament she wants to play. 

Injury nightmare for CiCi Bellis

American Cici Bellis, who turns 20 on Monday, has been out of action since last year’s Miami Open, where she lost in the first round to Victoria Azarenka.

There have been a few updates since then.

But she has never returned to action.

Now, after a post on Noah Rubin’s Behind the Racquet Instagram account (a must-follow), we know why.

The kid has been living a nightmare.  

Keep in mind that not only is Bellis a promising prospect fully supported by the USTA, she also comes from a well-off-background. We say this only because she’s lucky enough to be able to access the best medical care in the world, in case of an injury.

And yet, it’s been a complete disaster. And it appears far from over.

Monterrey the starting point

Two years ago, at the tournament in Monterrey that concludes Sunday, Bellis played Naomi Broady of Great Britain in the first round.

She lost 7-6 (7), 6-4, and says in the post that her arms were sore “for about four days.”

It was diagnosed as tendonitis. She went on anti-inflammatories for about five months, during which she made the semis in Mallorca and at her home tournament in Stanford. At 18, she was inside the top 40.

After four consecutive first-round losses, Bellis ended her season in late September and started back during the 2018 Australian swing.

In Doha in February, she went from the qualifying to the quarters. But then …

“During Dubai I literally felt my elbow crack,” she writes.

One, two, three … four surgeries

In short order, Bellis

•found out she had a too-long wrist bone, and had a first surgery to repair three tears in her wrist.

*another examination found that two bone spurs collided when she straightened her elbow, and the main one was fractured.

*a second surgery was performed, to shave down the bone spur.

Bellis was hitting again, and excited at the prospect of returning to the Tour. She even signed on for the exhibition event at the Hawaii Open in late December.

*a third surgery in November to “basically cut my bone in half, shortened it, and then put a plate in.”

The plate was too big, it turns out. Last week, Bellis had a fourth surgery, to have the plate removed.

Here’s the Instagram post.

View this post on Instagram

“During a tournament in Mexico two years ago, after playing against this big hitter, both my arms were sore for about four days. I thought it was normal and something I had to deal with. Everyone just diagnosed it as tendonitis. After getting through the clay and grass with pain doctors prescribed anti-inflammatories, which did help. I went off them, just before Asia, when I thought I was on these pills for too long. I took about 2-3 weeks off during preseason and then did some strengthening. I was at my career high ranking and wanted to continue the momentum. I went into 2017 playing Doha and Dubai. During Dubai I literally felt my elbow crack. It was now Indian Wells and the discomfort in my wrist and elbow was at an all time high. I was fed up with unqualified doctors and went to the Mayo Clinic to get the highest quality MRI. This doctor found three tears in my wrist and that one of the bones in my wrist was too long which caused the tears and impaction. The first surgery ended up solely repairing the tears, as he did not see the original impaction anymore. Shortly after healing my elbow started killing. A doctor examined it and found that two bone spurs hit each other every time I straightened my elbow, and the main one was fractured. This was the crack I felt in Dubai. The bone needed to be shaven down. It was a simple surgery and I got back to playing, but it wasn’t over. Pain returned in my wrist from ‘one of the worst impactions ever’. The doctor apologized for not doing the surgery earlier but now it was a must. They basically cut my bone in half, shortened it, and then put a plate in. This took some real time before I started hitting, but once I got to the baseline something was wrong. I received this swelling on my arm every time I played. We figured out the plate in my arm was too big, causing inflammation and aggravation. I got the plate out last Monday and that’s where I am now. The hardest things have been hitting and getting close to normality and then just being totally set back. There is no way I can do this anymore, but tennis is everything to me. I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t love this sport.”

A post shared by Behind The Racquet (@behindtheracquet) on

Where the young American is now, is to be determined.

“There is no way I can do this anymore, but tennis is everything to me. I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t love this sport,” she writes.

A heavy load, at a young age

All of this could well have happened regardless of her path to the pros. But Bellis was a precocious phenom. And she played a LOT of tennis, at a very, very young age.

At age 13, she made her debut on the ITF junior circuit as a wild card – and played nine matches in singles and doubles that week. From November, 2012 through the end of 2013, she played 73 matches.

In one two-week period in April, 2014, between the USTA Spring Championships and the Easter Bowl, she played … 18 matches.

Bellis was 14 when she began playing ITF Pro Circuit events. 

In all in 2014, she played 35 pro matches … and 84 junior matches.

In 2015, she played a lot less – 33 pro matches, and five in juniors.

But 2016 was busy again, even if her junior days were behind her. Bellis played 45 pro matches by mid-June – and 85 in all during the season.

She’s not a particularly tall, strong, muscular young woman. Quite the opposite, in fact. This was a heavy load. Not to mention the hours upon hours of hitting tennis balls.