Atherton's Bellis a hit at Bank of the West Classic

Atherton resident Catherine "Cici" Bellis won her first-round match at the Bank of the West Classic on Tuesday night. Photo by Harjanto Sumali.

At this time last year, Atherton resident CiCi Bellis was pondering a bright future. She announced her commitment to attend Stanford during her run to this event's quarterfinals.

A funny thing happened on the road to the U.S. Open. She kept winning and winning, moving into the top 100 for the first time.

Her choice became obvious. She turned pro later in the summer. She started to cash large paychecks instead of watching them fly into the sunset.

Video: the winning shot.

These days, Bellis is the youngest player ranked in the top 100. She's at No. 44 after spending a week at a career-high 43 last week.

"It's crazy, I had two completely different choices to make about being on this path," Bellis said after beating France's Alize Cornet 6-3, 6-2 in a first round match at the Bank of the West Classic on Tuesday.

"Either one would have been a great decision," Bellis said. "If I had chosen Stanford I'd be getting ready to come here in a few weeks. It's crazy to think about how different my life would be."

Being on the road since turning pro has been a little harder than she expected but being able to sleep in her own bed while at this tournament has helped ease things considerably.

"It's going to take a bit of getting used to," Bellis said. "I was on the road a lot more during the summer. It's always nice to come back home."

Especially when she has the backing of the crowd. A vast majority of the 1,719 fans supported Bellis.

Video: Shot of the day.

"The support is so great here," she said. "It was motivating me. This is my home tournament and I get so much more excited, even just winning points."

Playing at Stanford, which is the first of the U.S. Open Series, also means the final Grand Slam event of the year is on the horizon.

"This and the U.S. Open are my top two tournaments," Bellis said. "I look forward to both during the year."

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