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Hawaii Five-O: Bellis wins maiden WTA title in Honolulu

November 27, 2016 08:49 PM

By McCarton Ackerman, USTA.com

CiCi Bellis has been getting used to that winning feeling in 2016.

The 17-year-old American finished her season on a high note by capturing her first WTA title at the WTA 125K Series event in Honolulu. Bellis, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, didn’t drop a set in her five matches all week. She saved her best tennis for last, posting a convincing victory on Sunday over top seed and world No. 23 Shuai Zhang of China, 6-4, 6-2.

After just over an hour of play, the teenager collapsed to the ground in delight after Zhang hit a backhand into the net on Bellis’ first match point.

“This is definitely the best support I've ever gotten at any tournament," Bellis said during the trophy presentation. "I was a little nervous at first. Zhang's done so well this year and had another great week. I want to thank my team, the fans, the tournament. This is the best day of my life!"

Bellis concluded 2016 on a 14-match win streak, having previously won back-to-back $50,000 Challenger events in Canada. After entering July at No. 220 in the WTA rankings, she’ll finish the year inside the Top 75.

The second half of the year provided plenty of memorable highlights for the California teen. She came through qualifying at the US Open, marking the first time she accomplished that feat at a Grand Slam event, and advanced to the third round before losing to eventual champion Angelique Kerber.

In addition, Bellis reached her first WTA quarterfinal in July at the Emirates Airline US Open Series event in Stanford, Calif., and she repeated the feat in September in Quebec City. She also prevailed in June at the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Sumter, S.C.

With less than 100 WTA ranking points to defend in the first four months of 2017, there will be plenty of opportunities for Bellis to make a push for the Top 50. She will next compete in January in Australia as she prepares for her Australian Open debut.