NEW YORK -- While 15-year-old Atherton resident CiCi Bellis was in the process of stunning a Grand Slam finalist to become the youngest player to win a U.S. Open match since 1996, her father did his best to conceal his emotions courtside.
Like many a teen, CiCi has strict rules for Dad in public -- even if his 1,208th-ranked daughter is pulling out a back-and-forth 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 victory Tuesday over 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in the first round at Flushing Meadows.
"I'm told I cannot sigh and I cannot move or say anything (because) that distracts her, so I just have to sit there like a Sphinx and just smile and pray," the elder Bellis, Gordon, explained with a deadpan delivery. "She hears me when I sigh. So I can't sigh."
Ah, yes, the joys of raising kids. And make no mistake, Bellis is a kid. She is home-schooled and about to start 10th grade. Her first memory of the U.S. Open is watching on TV while Maria Sharapova played. She likes to hang out at the mall with friends at home. Asked whether she's a fan of pop star Justin Bieber, Bellis answered, "I used to like him when I was younger, a couple years ago."
Her victory was the most surprising of the afternoon session on Day 2 of the year's last Grand Slam tournament.
Aside from the Williams sisters, American tennis fans have not had much reason to cheer for their own in the latter stages of major tournaments in recent years. That's why the occasional run by a young U.S. player -- think Melanie Oudin, wearing "Believe" on her sneakers in 2009 -- stirs interest at Flushing Meadows.
"Believing was the No. 1 thing that I had to do today," said Bellis, whose nickname CiCi is derived from the initials of her first and middle names, Catherine Cartan. "That's what my coach told me before the match also: Just go out there and believe that you can win."
Bellis is still young enough that she plans on playing in the junior tournament in New York. She lost in the third round of that event a year ago; she lost in the first round of the Wimbledon girls' tournament last month.
But on Tuesday, there she was in front of a supportive, overflowing crowd on Court 6 at Flushing Meadows, taking it to Cibulkova, the runner-up at the Australian Open in January and the 2013 Bank of the West champion at Stanford.
"I went into the match thinking it was going to be such a great experience," said Bellis, "but I never thought I would come out on top winning." Bellis, the No. 2-ranked junior in the world, still plans to compete in the U.S. Open junior tournament.
Neither did her parents. Her mother, Lori, didn't attend the match because she gets too nervous watching in person, Gordon Bellis said. So Lori stayed at their hotel, getting updates via text from Gordon.
"She asked how bad it was going in the first set. And so I told her (CiCi) actually won the first set. She couldn't believe that," Gordon said. "We were just thankful that she didn't get double-bageled. That was the first objective."
After trailing 3-1 in the third set -- "kind of a bummer," Bellis would say later -- she came back to even things, then broke the 25-year-old Cibulkova in the final game. When it ended, Bellis crouched at the baseline and pumped her fists, then ran over to the stands for congratulatory hugs.
"I didn't expect her to play so aggressive today. I thought she's kind of a player who's just putting the ball back and running around," Cibulkova said. "That didn't happen today. She was really aggressive on the court and that maybe surprised me in the first set."
Bellis was making her main-draw tour-level debut, having earned a wild-card invitation from the U.S. Tennis Association by winning the USTA Girls' 18s National Championship, the youngest to do since Lindsay Davenport also won it at 15 in 1991.
Not since Anna Kournikova was 15 in 1996 had someone so young won a match at the U.S. Open. And not since Mary Joe Fernandez was that age in 1986 had an American done it.
"Now it's time for her to refocus, not get too excited about this first round. Just get back to business," said Fernandez, an ESPN analyst.
Next up for Bellis is a second-round match against 48th-ranked Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan. And Gordon Bellis said Lori might decide to attend that one. No word on what sort of rules Mom will have to follow.
Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova fared far better than the last time she came to New York after winning at the All England Club. In 2011, she lost in the first round; on Tuesday, she beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-1, 6-0.
The player Kvitova defeated in the Wimbledon final, Eugenie Bouchard, was back to her winning ways in her return to the Grand Slam stage.
The seventh-seeded Bouchard routed Olga Govortsova 6-2, 6-1. The last time she played at a major tournament, the 20-year-old made history: the first Canadian to reach a Grand Slam final.
In the Wimbledon title match, though, she was swept away by Kvitova 6-3, 6-0, and things didn't go much better in her three hard-court tuneups for the U.S. Open. Bouchard won just one of her four matches, including an upset loss in her opener in her home tournament in Montreal.
But against the 117th-ranked Govortsova, she had little trouble. Govortsova, who has been ranked as high as 35th, had won just two main draw WTA matches this year.
Ana Ivanovic was feeling good about her game coming into the U.S. Open, and it showed Tuesday. The eighth-seeded Serb beat American Alison Riske 6-3, 6-0. Ivanovic has won 48 matches this year, more than anyone else on tour.
The 2008 French Open champion has struggled to get back to that level but finally seems to be inching closer. She returned to the top 10 this month for the first time in more than five years.
The 24-year-old Riske made a breakthrough at last year's U.S. Open, reaching the fourth round after an upset of Petra Kvitova. She reached a career-high ranking of No. 40 this summer.
Samantha Stosur, the 2011 U.S. Open champ, also quickly dispatched a young American, beating Lauren Davis 6-1, 6-4. The 49th-ranked Davis fell to 0-3 at her home Grand Slam event.
Svetlana Kuznetsova lost her first-round U.S. Open match for the first time since 2005, the year she was the tournament's defending champion. Kuznetsova, seeded 20th this time, was beaten 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (3) by 82nd-ranked Marina Erakovic of New Zealand.
Roger Federer and Serena Williams play the night session at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Williams faces American teen Taylor Townsend, who's making her U.S. Open debut.
John Isner, a former top American college player, beat this year's top American college player. The 13th-seeded Isner won 7-6 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (2) against Marcos Giron, who earned his first spot in a Grand Slam tournament when he won the NCAA title for UCLA in May.
Fellow American Sam Querrey improved to 3-9 in five-set matches with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Argentina's Maximo Gonzalez.
Another American, Jack Sock, retired from his match because of a right calf injury. Sock was trailing 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 to Pablo Andujar of Spain when he decided he couldn't continue.
Fourth-seeded David Ferrer beat Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2.
Tenth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan cruised to a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 victory over American Wayne Odesnik, showing no apparent effects from a toe injury that hampered his preparations. The 176th-ranked Odesnik earned a wild card into the U.S. Open, his first appearance in five years. He served a yearlong ban after pleading guilty for importing human growth hormone into Australia. Victor Estrella of the Dominican Republic earned his first Grand Slam victory at age 34, beating Igor Sijsling 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Estrella hadn't played in a major tournament until this year.