What A Week To Remember For Osorio Serrano

Maria Camilla Osorio Serrano (photo: MUSC Health Women’s Open/Chris Smith)

CHARLESTON, S.C./WASHINGTON, April 16, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Maria Camila Osorio Serrano won her first WTA singles title, the Copa Colsanitas, in Bogotá, the capital city in her home country of Colombia, Sunday afternoon. That’s when the fun began after she lifted the champion’s trophy that signified her mastery of the red clay in this WTA 250 series event. Everyone, it seems, wanted to celebrate with Osorio Serrano, whether it be to exchange a high-five, take a selfie with the new champion or get an autograph – and the young champion was all too accommodating to her friends, family and fans.

Osorio Serrano’s 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 title victory over No. 5 seed Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia was filled full of struggle between the two players – and there was plenty of reality, too. After two hours and 48 minutes, there was a happy ending for the 19-year-old Colombian from Cúcuta, a town located in northeast Colombia near the Venezuelan border. She dropped to her knees and momentarily buried her face in her arms after securing championship point. Then, after Osorio Serrano picked herself up off the ground, she crossed herself and blew a kiss toward the heavens, something she traditionally does after her matches. The WTA world-feed television cameras captured this lovely montage of images perfectly, and it was a fitting conclusion to an exciting – if not exhausting – title match.

“Every match I play, I pray and ask God to protect me from injuries, and after that, I say ‘thank you‘ – win or lose,” Osorio Serrano told Tennis TourTalk. “It’s something I’ve done since I started playing tennis at age six.”

Osorio Serrano, a former junior World No. 1 and 2019 US Open girls’ champion, who lost only one set en route to winning the Copa Colsanitas title, became just the third Colombian to win the Bogotá tournament in its 23-year history. She will be forever linked to the other Colombians who came before her: four-time champion Fabiola Zuluaga (1999, 2002-04) and Mariana Duque-Mariño, who won in 2010.

Osorio Serrano recalled how 11 years ago in 2010, as a little eight-year-old girl, she was chasing after Duque-Mariño’s autograph at the tournament. “For me, then, to be playing here and winning the tournament is crazy,” she said. “It’s something you always dream of, and now I’m there!”

Soon, the 180th-ranked Osorio Serrano, who was the lowest-ranked WTA champion since Margarita Gasparyan won Tashkent in 2018 while ranked No. 299, was off to conduct a freewheeling virtual press conference, where she answered questions in both Spanish and English, that lasted a solid 50 minutes.

“I played a really great match against Tamara, and I didn’t know how I turned the match. I lost the first set and I was a little bit tight, so I still cannot believe I won,” Osorio Serrano said.

Later in the interview session, Osorio Serrano gave props to Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska, last year’s Roland Garros semifinalist, as someone who is helping to pave the way for other South American players.

“I’m so happy that we’re making history, and we’re starting to hear more from South American players,” Osorio Serrano said of the World No. 45 Podoroska. “Nadia is an inspiration for me after what she did at the French Open, so crazy how she came from qualies and playing unreal matches. I’m really happy we’re starting to grow up and hopefully there’ll be more girls from South America on tour.”

By the end of the virtual interview, her first as a tournament champion, Osorio Serrano was still full of energy and enthusiasm. She summed up her feelings at that time by simply saying:

“It’s been an unreal week for me. I still cannot believe that I won the title,” she said.

Now, fast forward a few days, Osorio Serrano finds herself about 3,178 kilometers from Bogotá in Charleston, S.C., where she received a special exemption into the main draw of this week’s WTA 250 MUSC Health Women’s Open at LTP-Daniel Island, playing on green clay. She’s part of a youth movement that’s been garnering recognition, both through winning on the court and sharing their stories with the tournament media off of it.

Three of the Top Eight highest-ranked teenagers made the main draw this week in Charleston: World No. 101 Clara Tauson (age 18), World No. 110 Caty McNally (age 19), and World No. 135 Osorio Serrano (age 19). Add a pair of wild cards, 19-year-old American Emma Navarro and 15-year-old Czech Linda Fruhvirtova, to the mix and, indeed, youth is being served in Charleston this week.

On Tuesday, Osorio Serrano, whose ranking shot up 45 places to No. 135 after her title victory, won her first-round match. She upset No. 2 seed Magda Linette of Poland, ranked 51st, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5. Osorio Serrano sealed it with an ace on her first match-point opportunity, witnessed by her mother and by her coach, Richard Sanchez.

It advanced the Colombian teenager to face No. 91 Christina McHale of the United States on Althea Gibson Club Court Thursday afternoon. What did Osorio Serrano do for an encore? She won, but it wasn’t that easy, as she rallied from a set and a break down to win 2-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (1) in two hours and 32 minutes. Despite being outpointed 105-103, Osorio Serrano overcame nine double faults and six breaks of her serve, and by the end of the third-set tie break, she was the steadier player.

After her Tuesday win, Tennis TourTalk asked Osorio Serrano to describe what it was like going from winning her first WTA singles title in Colombia to beating the No. 2 seed Linette in Charleston. She said: “It’s been a really crazy two days for me! I still feel shocked from winning in Bogotá. It was my first title, so I can’t describe the feeling. I arrived here and feeling a little bit tired. I told my coach, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow; I’ll try my best.’ I won today against an unreal player and I’m just so happy and excited; I can’t believe I’m doing so well. I have to focus on my next match, but it’s been a really great day for me.”

Osorio Serrano credited her fighting spirit during her win over Linette and said she was proud she “didn’t lose my mind. I hope I can keep doing that the next few days.” She said she would rely upon Sanchez to come up with a game plan for her match against McHale. By the end, she relied upon pure fighting spirit.

“I’ve never played [McHale], but every player here is a great player. I will do my best and try to enjoy and hopefully I can win.”

After beating McHale, which was her seventh consecutive victory on clay, Osorio Serrano said in a delighted tone of voice during her on-court interview: “I’m super happy and proud about what I did today. I knew it was going to be a very hard match. I left my heart on the court. I congratulate [Christina] because she did a really good job today.”

When she was asked what she learned about herself on the court Thursday, Osorio Serrano replied: “I learned that nothing is impossible. If you fight for what you want, you can [achieve] your goals.”

Afterward, during her virtual press conference, Tennis TourTalk asked Osorio Serrano to further reflect on what she’s learned through her first two victories and over the past two weeks. She replied: “You have to put you heart into whatever you do in life. No matter what, you have to fight and stay tough. One day I hope I can be to be on top. This gives me confidence in me and and my game and all the work I’ve been doing. 

“It’s funny, I haven’t really thought about what has been going on right now,” she added, laughing. “I just keep playing match after match. I cannot quite realize what I have done. I am super happy. It’s important I’ve played against really good players in really important matches and that I’ve won them all.”

Next, Osorio Serrano will play Tauson in a quarterfinal battle of the teens on Friday (third match from 1 p.m. local time, 7 p.m. Central European).

Thursday’s MUSC Health Women’s Open results 

Friday’s MUSC Health Women’s Open order of play

Around the MUSC Health Women’s Open

• No. 1 seed Ons Jabeur reached the quarterfinals in Charleston for the second straight week. On Thursday, she beat 313th-ranked American qualifier Alycia Parks 6-4, 6-0 in about an hour. Jabeur hit four aces and won 77 percent of her first-serve points. She broke Parks’ serve five times in six opportunities and outpointed her opponent 56-34.

“I’m getting used to playing on the [green clay] everyday,” Jabeur said during her virtual post-match interview. “I like green clay; I like clay in general, to be honest. I love playing here, love being here. I’m been playing a lot of matches, so I’m enjoying my time here and hope I can [continue to] enjoy it as much as I can.”

Next, Jabeur will face No. 88 Nao Hibino of Japan in the quarterfinal round on Friday.

• Unseeded Astra Sharma of Australia, ranked 165th, advanced to play Linda Fruhvirtova following her 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 win over No. 82 Madison Brengle of the United States, seeded eighth. Although points were even at 114, Sharma rallied from 1-4 down in the final set to win six of the final seven games She broke Brengle in the seventh and 11th games for the victory.

Linda Fruhvirtova backed up her first WTA tour-level win against No. 59 Alizé Cornet on Tuesday with her second one Thursday evening, a 6-4, 6-2 win over 404th-ranked American wild card Emma Navarro in 90 minutes, that advanced her to her first WTA quarterfinal. The 15-year-old from the Czech Republic overcame 11 double faults by winning 75 percent of her first-serve points and broke Navarro’s serve six times in nine opportunities. She outpointed her opponent 69-52.

Tennis TourTalk asked Fruhvirtova if there was a different feeling to winning her second WTA match compared to her first. She said: “It was definitely different [tonight] than the first round. It was a different game. Every day is different, every day you feel different. It’s an amazing feeling being in the quarterfinals for the first time.”

• Doubles No. 1 seeds Ellen Perez and Storm Sanders, both of Australia, reached the semifinals with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Wang Yafan of China and Katarzyna Piter of Poland. They wrapped up the win in 65 minutes, aided by four breaks of their opponents’ serve and outpointing the opposition 59-33. Next, they will face unseeded Julia Wachaczyk of Germany and Renata Zarazua of Mexico, who advanced with a 6-2, 6-4 win over unseeded Jamie Loeb of the United States and Erin Routliffe of New Zealand.

What they’re saying

Maria Camila Osorio Serrano admitted during her Tuesday virtual press conference that she’s an admirer of both Ashleigh Barty and Bianca Andreescu. “Barty, she has everything,” Osorio Serrano said. “Great shots, can hit slice, hit drops, high ball is amazing. She can do everything with that. I just love watching her play. Bianca, she has a lot of high spirit. She’s never going to give up. I hope I can also do that in matches.”