MONTERREY, MEXICO/WASHINGTON, March 1, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)
Imagine the thrill that Marcela Zacarías must have felt Monday evening. After making her WTA main draw debut eight years ago in Acapulco, the 27-year-old Mexican captured her first win at this level in her fifth attempt.
In a battle of wild cards in the first round of the WTA 250 Abierto GNP Seguros in Monterrey, capital city of the northeastern Mexican state of Nuevo León, the 208th-ranked Zacarías defeated American Emma Navarro, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 6-3, to advance for the first time in her career to the second round of a WTA main draw tournament. It was the third time in five months Zacarías and Navarro had met. Each time, they went the distance.
Good things do happen to those who are patient. They get to raise their arms in victory and celebrate, which is exactly what Zacarías did. Plus, there was Zacarías’s radiant smile that lit up the Club Sonoma center court as she stood and received the plaudits of the partisan crowd that cheered her triumph. It brought tears to her eyes, too.
After Zacarías returned to her bench, she visibly sobbed into her towel. It was a victory worth savoring – happy tears and all – and, soon after, Zacarias made time to pose for selfies with her fans.
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From 6-1, 5-3 up, Zacarías needed two hours and 30 minutes to beat the 202nd-ranked Navarro, the reigning NCAA singles champion from the University of Virginia. She did so by breaking Navarro’s serve nine times in 16 tries while saving eight of the 12 break points she faced. Zacarías outpointed Navarro 111-98.
Zacarías set up match with a solid forehand cross-court passing shot that ended a dramatic 14-shot rally. Then, Zacarías secured victory on her first match-point opportunity after Navarro weakly netted a backhand return on the final rally of the match.
“I do have experience as a player,” Zacarías said in press after the match, translated from Spanish, “but the truth in these tournaments is I haven’t had many matches. I had never won a match in a main draw.
“I wasn’t thinking about it and all I wanted was to think about it. I knew it was going to be complicated.”
If Zacarías looked familiar to fans on the court and to those who were watching on TV, you’re right. If you saw “King Richard,” the recent bio-pic movie about the Williams sisters and their father-coach, Richard, portrayed by Will Smith, you also saw Zacarías. The central Mexican native from San Luis Potosí played former World No. 1 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the Oscar nominated film.
Tenis y cine de la mano de Will Smith y ‘El método Williams”. La tenista mexicana @marcelazac fue la elegida para ser Arantxa Sánchez Vicario. Un placer hablar con ella y conocer cómo logró el papel, cómo se preparó y cómo fue el rodaje https://t.co/w8vxpPNEAA
— Andrés García (@andrewgarcia) January 27, 2022
Zacarías, who was appearing in her first WTA main draw match since 2016, has mostly toiled in the ITF Pro Circuit. There, she’s won 16 titles, most recently at a $15K event in Cancún, Mexico in late 2019. She also made her Fed Cup debut for Mexico way back in 2012. However, because of her ranking, Zacarías’s participation in WTA tournaments has been confined mostly to her home country – in tournaments in Monterrey as well as in Guadalajara and in former stops like Acapulco – and through receiving wild cards.
Monday’s victory advanced Zacarías to face 20-year-old No. 5 seed Camila Osorio of Colombia, ranked 44th, in Wednesday’s second round.
“For me, it’s very good to be at home and start in the main draw, which I’ve never been in,” Zacarías said. “To have the support of the people is the maximum.”