CiCi Bellis' first memory of the U.S. Open is watching on TV from her hometown of San Francisco, where the night matches are still early enough for a child.
"I was I think 6 or 7," she said. "I was watching [Maria] Sharapova play a match. I don't remember who she was playing."
Bellis will remember her opponent in her first U.S. Open match Tuesday. So will everyone else on the grounds at Flushing Meadows.
At 15 years, 4 months and 18 days, Bellis knocked off No. 12 seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia on Court 6. The home-schooled sophomore prevailed 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 to win in her first WTA event. Bellis became the youngest player to win a match in Flushing Meadows since Anna Kournikova (15 years, 2 months) did so in 1996.
Ranked No. 1,208 in the world, Bellis had secured a wild card in the draw after winning the USTA Girls 18s National Championships two weeks ago.
"I went into the match thinking it was going to be such a great experience, but I never thought I would come out on top winning," she said.
Before we dig deeper into the significance of her win in tennis terms, here are a few quick facts to give you a better sense of Bellis:
Doing normal teen stuff? She likes the movies and the Stanford mall near her home in Atherton: "I actually just went with one of my friends. We went to Urban Outfitters."
TV show she'd like to do? "I love Ellen. I think I would want to go on Ellen."
Justin Bieber fan? "I used to like him when I was younger, a couple years ago."
Knocking off Cibulkova, 25, who reached the Australian Open final in January, did not come easy. After a 23-minute first set, Cibulkova took 38 minutes to win the second set. The third set featured 42 minutes of grinding before Bellis was able to win by a break.
"Words can't describe it right now" Bellis said. "Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to think of it better."
CiCi's father, Gordon, was in the crowd, wearing a plaid button-down short-sleeve shirt and shorts. He works at a private equity fund in San Francisco and does not have any personal connections to tennis or any professional sports for that matter. He claims CiCi owes her tennis prowess to her mother, who played on the junior and collegiate circuit. Lori was not at Court 6 on Tuesday, as her nerves got to her. She stayed back at the hotel.
"She swore she was going to come out to this, but didn't," Gordon said of his wife. "She was hoping it would be on TV, but it wasn't.
"We were texting her. She didn't want to look at the thing because she asked how bad it was going in the first set. I told her [CiCi] actually won the first set. She couldn't believe it. We were just happy she didn't get double-bageled."
Lori may make the trek to Queens on Thursday for Bellis' second-round match versus Zarina Diyas, the No. 48 player in the world from Kazakhstan. Unless Lori gets superstitious about staying back at the hotel.
If the match is not televised, Lori could always follow online. Bellis' name was trending on social media in the moments after her victory Tuesday afternoon.
"I know some of my friends were doing hashtag like takedownCibulkova, something like that," Bellis says. "I know three of my friends did that, I guess."
Cute, but a lot more than three people must have been tweeting her name.
In the players' lounge word spread among American players. Christina McHale, the 44th-ranked player in the world, won her first-round match around the same time as Bellis.
"I think it's awesome," said McHale, who made her U.S. Open debut at 17 in 2009. "She should stay as grounded as possible and take it one match at a time, but at the same time, enjoy it. It's just an unbelievable experience she's having here."
Madison Keys, 19, was aware of Bellis' wild-card spot and followed her fellow teenager during her own match.
"I saw her up on the screen," said Keys, who turned pro one day after her 14th birthday in 2009 and won her first-round match in her U.S. Open debut at 16 in 2011. "I knew that she won. Congrats to her. That's a massive win."
Keys earned early fame for defeating Serena Williams at a World Team Tennis event in 2009 while she was still 14. Now ranked No. 27 in the world, Keys has settled into her own on the professional circuit. She advises Bellis maintain a level head.
"I would say to embrace it, but also not to overthink it," Keys said. "You can definitely get very nervous and you can really start overthinking things and expecting a lot of yourself. I think she just has to go out, have fun and keep playing. She has plenty of years ahead of her."
When asked about his daughter's name, Gordon explains CiCi is a connection of her first name, Catherine, and her middle name, Cartan, Gordon's late mother's maiden name.
"It's better than Coco," he said.
Coco Vandeweghe, the 39th ranked player in the world, may disagree. The 22-year-old American (and niece of former basketball player Kiki Vandeweghe) has been living in the spotlight with the name since she turned pro in 2008 at age 16. But Coco doesn't know CiCi.
"I haven't heard of the score, nor have I heard of her," Vandeweghe said.
With that said, Vandeweghe recalled her first match in Queens in 2008, a straight-sets loss to eventual runner-up Jelena Jankovic.
"I was one year older than her when I played my first match here on Ashe, a night match," Vandeweghe said. "I wasn't able to grasp the situation well at all. I played Jelena Jankovic. I remember so clearly I tossed up the ball on the first point and I swung at it and I thought, 'This isn't even going to hit the court. This is going to hit the stands.' I aimed right down the tee and ended up acing her wide. That's how nervous I was."
Vandeweghe expressed awe as she was given details of Bellis' three-set win Tuesday.
"It's a great feeling for a young American," Vandeweghe says. "I hope she realizes what she was able to accomplish. Cibulkova was a grand slam finalist this year, so it's not like she's out of form."
Bellis said she still plans to play college tennis before turning pros. Bellis could have cashed in $60,000 Tuesday with the first-round victory but she opted to keeping her amateur status and college dreams alive.
"I don't try to think about it," Bellis said about the $60,000. "I try to focus on tennis rather than anything else.
Her father provided the comedy:
"There are bigger things out there than money," Gordon said. "If she wins the finals, then we might have a different discussion."
Like most teenagers, Bellis has a social media presence, and her following grew considerably Tuesday. Despite the boost in virtual friends, Bellis has a second round to keep focused on.
"Don't change anything because you've got a million people hitting you up on Twitter or whatever," Vandeweghe said. "Just keep it cool."
Bellis, who also played soccer before giving it up to focus on tennis at age 10, said her tennis idol is Kim Clijsters. The Belgian won three times in Flushing Meadows before her final retirement in 2012. Clijsters won for the first time at the U.S. Open in 1999 -- Bellis' birth year -- making a trip to the third round as a 16-year-old.
Bellis admires Clijsters' perseverance.
"Her confidence on the court, the way she carried herself, her game," Bellis said. "I love everything about it. The fact she had kids, then came back to win the U.S. Open, that's crazy."
Speaking of kids, CiCi is an only child. Tennis has a history of being a sport in which parents are particularly involved in dictating a teenage player's career path, for better or for worse. Some end up making bright decisions, while others arguably crush their children's dream.
"We've definitely seen when players have been very great and then the parents had unfortunate circumstances and then the player basically goes apart," Gordon said. "I don't want to name names, but there are numerous examples of that. You just have to be very cognizant of that and make sure you're doing this for the child.
"It's for them and not for you."
For CiCi, Gordon and Lori, there were no extravagant celebration plans Tuesday.
"Just quiet dinner or something," she said. "Then [I'll] think about the next match, not really celebrate too much."
But unlike the details of that Maria Sharapova match nearly a decade ago, she will remember plenty about Tuesday.