NEW YORK — There was live tennis inside Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday night, but fans began to filter out as word spread about the match over on Court 17. Soon enough, the South Plaza was clogged with people, all of whom were craning their necks for a view of the huge video board on the stadium’s south façade.
After a day spent waiting, everyone was finally watching Catherine Bellis, a 15-year-old Californian known to her family, friends and fans as CiCi. A fortunate few were able to secure seats inside Court 17 for her second-round match against Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan. The rest were left to watch her toil on an enormous TV.
It was only the first week of the U.S. Open, but it was a legitimate event — and one that ended in disappointment for Bellis, who fell in three sets, 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.
“I think what surprised me is that I could really, like, stay with these pros. And I think today if I had, you know, played a little bit better, it would have been a different result,” Bellis said.
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Yet Court 17 was the place to be, and it had everything to do with Bellis. A sudden star and the toast of Flushing Meadows, she was the youngest player in the women’s draw.
In a cruel twist from the scheduling gods, Bellis was the fourth match of the day on Court 17, where accommodations are first-come, first-serve. So for many fans, securing entry for CiCi-palooza — a daylong festival at the 2,800-seat stadium — meant applying a thick layer of sunblock and settling in for the long haul, as morning turned to night.
“That’s crazy. I had no idea that people did that,” Bellis said. “That’s an honor to have people doing that for me.”
Meanwhile, top-seeded Serena Williams dismissed 81st-ranked American Vania King 6-1, 6-0 in 56 minutes to reach the third round.
Williams ran her U.S. Open winning streak to 16 matches as she tries to become the first woman to win three consecutive titles at Flushing Meadows since Chris Evert took four in a row from 1975 to 1978.
A pair of other past major champions, No. 8 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia and No. 24 Sam Stosur of Australia, lost, as did No. 23 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia and No. 27 Madison Keys of the U.S., bringing the total to 11 seeded women gone after two rounds.