Young Californian prodigy Catherine “Cici” Bellis (*99 / USA) has a great feeling for the game. She was having a well-organized almost entirely private tennis development program going for her since a very early age and thus she has learned very early how to understand the game, the court and how to win. In the year 2014, at the age of 15, Catherine became #1 on the Junior ITF ranking and has also entered the WTA top 300 already. Bellis has reached her Junior #1 ranking without winning any of the major junior singles titles, she captured just the 2014 Orange Bowl U18 doubles title with Czech Marketa Vondrousova (in the meantime, they are both in the WTA top 100). Her biggest singles trophies in juniors have been just the Trofeo Bonfiglio (ITA), Easter Bowl (USA) and Coffee Bowl (COL). In 2016, at the age of 17 years, Catherine entered the WTA top 100 and she closed the 2017 season even in the top 50.
Excellent feeling for the game with very good anticipation skills, solid footwork & positioning in the court as well as a quite serious mental toughness capacity, this all belongs to Catherine’s main strengths. From the technical point of view, her service was for quite long rather a weakness (got better in between), but both of her groundstrokes and returns were rather pretty solid. Catherine’s forehand then has the potential to become a serious weapon; she has already mastered some of the most significant elements of the Forehand 3.0 Code, but some small details of it (mainly around the timing/spacing and the form of the pronation) are still in parts missing and their absence is, therefore, limiting the potential of this stroke. Her forehand quality is based also on the fact, that she is mostly able to keep the body rotation axis inside of her body around the spine, which is then much more efficient in comparison to the body rotation axis being outside of the body (around the outside leg).
Below, I am comparing Catherine’s forehand during her 3rd round match at the 2014 Orange Bowl (against Shiskina / USA – the first tie-break set was very tight there) and her forehand in a practice set against Kayla Day (USA) during the 2017 French Open. At Catherine’s example is then also quite well possible to explain the certain mystery of the stances as the terms open, semi-open, direct, closed can be sometimes quite misleading. Based on the incoming ball, the feet position is rather situational, the main question is much rather, where do the loading (coiling) and unloading (uncoiling) originate from, which leg gives the starting impulse and generates most of the stroke driving power from the ground reaction force (GRF). When the push-off goes over the outside leg, we should talk about an open stance stroke variety; in the case of the push-off from the inside leg, we would be talking about a direct stance and when the push-off and body (hip and shoulder) rotation are hardly possible, it would be a closed stance. Based on this, the “capacity of the stance” (and the space for the stroke) play also a big role in the relation to the (ideal) body rotation, which delivers the all-important centrifugal force (uncoiling leading to body energy unloading) – one of the main factors in the modern body energy driven tennis aka TENNIS 3.0. The amount and form of the body rotation, as well as the position of its axis, then relate to the mechanical efficiency of the stroke, which besides the overall stroke quality to big degree influences also the probability of the injuries.
The photos below show that Catherine was since her junior years well-focused on the use of the body energy in her forehand strokes. The centrifugal force from the body rotation was the main energy source of most of Catherine’s forehands back then already. The spacing and the form of the pronation then seem to have been a bit of a challenge back then as they are a certain remaining challenge in the meantime still…, despite clear improvements. The rather quite extreme semi-western grip is certainly a factor too.
This article covers certain aspects of Catherine Bellis’ forehand and forehand in general only! Further photos, more details about her forehand and other strokes as well as about the strokes of other players are available upon request at drmgb11(at)gmail.com. Some significant details of this kind, necessary for a top tennis performance as well as for a sustainable tennis training/development in general, are being discussed also in the seminar “TENNIS 3.0 – Future of the Game”, which is available worldwide upon request – www.tennis30.com / www.tennis30.cz
Photos (December 2014 & May 2017) & text (December 2017) copyright by Dr. Martin G. Baroch. Any further publication of either any of the photos and/or texts with the explicit written permission from the author/copyright owner only!!