Young tennis star finding recognition

Hollywood honors its finest with an Oscar, and the adult athletic world acknowledges its stars with an ESPY; the national youth sports community now has its own award, the Youthee.

Among the five nominees for Female Athlete of the Year is San Francisco native and Atherton resident CiCi Bellis, a 5-foot-3, 80-pound fireball on the tennis court.

“She’s one out of a million,” said Monique Javer, one of Bellis’ coaches who has been with the 12-year-old since she began playing tournaments at age 7.

A review of Bellis’ dominant 2011 season justifies why she is considered one of the nation’s five top young female athletes. Included in her nine national titles were age group championships in the USTA clay and hard-court tournaments. She ran away from the pack of 1,195 competitors to earn the top spot among the 12-and-unders.

A 29-match winning streak from July through October was broken with a loss to the 18-and-under Northern California champion.

“A lot of the girls get wrapped up in wins and losses,” Bellis said. “I just play for the love of the game. I play freely.”

The joy is easy to detect as Bellis’ orthodontia glistens with her ever-present smile on the court at the Metropolitan Club in The City, where she hit with coach Javer recently.

How with her slight frame Bellis summons the awesome power with which she strikes the ball is a perplexing question of physics.

She appears hardly winded after her two-hour morning workout with Javer, taking a break before returning for a few more hours in the afternoon.

“I love practicing. I don’t like days off,” said Bellis, smiling at her mom and dad, Gordon and Lori. “My parents have to force me to take a day off.”

Dad reports that his home-schooled daughter takes perhaps one day off from her beloved tennis every two weeks.

With her 13th birthday not until April, Bellis is the youngest competitor in the Top 50 of the 14-and-unders, currently ranked No. 31, focused on cracking the top 10 this year.

“I feel really honored to be chosen. It’s kind of amazing that I would be nominated,” said Bellis.

Unlike the Oscars, selected by a small industry group, anyone with access to a computer may cast a vote for the Youthees.

Inaugural Youthee Awards


WINNERS: Youthee winners will be announced Wednesday

CATEGORIES: The Youthees are broken into five categories: Team of the Year, Male Athlete of the Year, Female Athlete of the Year, Coach of the Year and Story of the Year

NOMINATED: Cici Bellis is up for Female Athlete of the Year and won five USTA sportsmanship awards in 2011 and 19 total in the past four years

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