A highly-anticipated clash between teen talents Maria Camila Osorio Serrano and Clara Tauson ended in injury for the Dane, who retired after aggravating an already-strapped left knee, trailing the Colombian, 6-4, 1-0, at the MUSC Health Women’s Open in Charleston.
“I’m happy to be in the semifinals, but not like this,” Osorio Serrano said in her post-match press conference.
The youngsters have been impressive in the post-Australian Open swing, each capturing their first WTA titles in Lyon (Tauson) and Bogota (Osorio Serrano), and treated fans to an entertaining opening set, only for an awkward landing on Tauson’s serve to expedite the match’s conclusion after 58 minutes on Althea Gibson Club Court.
“There’s not much to talk about with this match, but in general, I think I’m doing great. I couldn’t have expected to make it so far this week, but I’m playing better and with more confidence with every match. It’s helping me a lot and I’m proud of what I’m doing. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but as always, I’ll do my best."
Osorio Serrano took a seven-match winning streak into Friday’s quarterfinal, having won her title at home just last week, and had been victorious when she and good friend Tauson last faced off as juniors. Despite two titanic matches earlier in the tournament, the 19-year-old was quick out of the gates with a 4-1 advantage.
“She’s so fun and such a nice person. She’s one of my friends on tour, and is actually one of my only friends because I just started playing on tour! We keep in touch sometimes and when we win matches and tournaments, we’re always so happy for each other. That made this match tough for me.”
Tauson’s power soon overwhelmed Osorio Serrano’s spin as the Dane leveled proceedings at four games apiece. Serving to stay in the set, the 18-year-old landed hard on her left leg, leading her to call for a medical time out during the subsequent changeover.
Battling through the start of the second, Tauson couldn’t ultimately outrun the pain and forfeited the match in tears. Osorio Serrano embraced her friend at net and continued to comfort Tauson in a moving display.
“I don’t even remember what I said, just that it was ok and I hoped she feels better. I was so shocked because that’s never happened to me before; no one has ever retired in a match against me. It was really strange for me and I didn’t know what to say, but I was really sorry it had to end like that. I know it’s tough to be injured and unable to play. It was tough to see her like that, crying.”
Another win edges Osorio Serrano that much closer to a Top 100 debut, which she could achieve should she win the title, and cites a mix of factors behind her fairytale fortnight.
“This may sound funny, but I believe a lot in God, and that he’s the key to everything in my life. He’s the one taking me to all these good places, but I’ve also done a lot of work myself on my mentality. I used to get mad a lot when I was playing; I used to think I was too good, and when I missed a ball, I would get mad and frustrated. I would start playing bad and even give up, so lately I’ve been trying not to do that, play every point as good as I can.”
The Colombian also has a strong coach in her corner, hiring Ricardo Sanchez shortly before the pandemic began in the fall of 2019. Sanchez has worked with the former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic and former Top 10 players like Daniela Hantuchova and Nadia Petrova.
“He read the other players really well,” she said after surviving a third-set tie-break against Christina McHale on Thursday. “Sometimes he’ll just tell me what to do and that’s how it works. Other times, I’ll come on court and do all the opposite of what he’s told me! I’m still learning; I’m not No. 1 in the world, so I still have a lot of processes and things to work on, but he’s really patient and knows I like doing things myself. He just tries to remind me that with him, I can do even better.”
Osorio Serrano has quickly become a star at home, and will aim to channel that momentum into a semifinal encounter against Australian Astra Sharma, who defeated Czech teenager Linda Fruhvirtova in the last match of the day.
“My family cannot believe it; it’s so crazy. They keep texting me how this is unreal and that they’re super proud and happy for me. They know all the work I do at home, and sometimes people just see you on court, winning tournaments, but they don’t see the behind-the-scenes. The media in Colombia is also talking a lot about me, which is funny because I was never on TV so much. My friends are telling me I’m on all the shows, in all the papers!
“I haven’t actually thought too much about what’s going on right now," she admitted on Thursday. "I can’t really realize what I’ve done in these two weeks because before this, I was playing qualies and 25Ks, crossing my fingers just to play the qualies in WTA tournaments. Now that I’m here in this position, I’m super happy, but I can’t describe the moment! I’m just like, ‘Ok, it’s fine. I won another match.’ I’m playing great players, great matches, and the fact that I’m winning, I’m super happy about that.”
Earlier in the day, top seed Ons Jabeur continued her dominant campaign and kept her hopes of a first WTA title alive with a 6-0, 6-1 demolition of Japan’s Nao Hibino. Dating back to her 6-4, 6-0 victory over American Alycia on Thursday, Jabeur reeled off 20 straight games before Hibino broke through at 6-0, 5-0.
The Tunisian shook off the blip to book a semifinal rematch with Volvo Car Open runner-up Danka Kovinic. The Montenegran has been a revelation on green clay, upsetting Jabeur six days ago en route to the final; after a tough opening set against Shelby Rogers, Kovinic ultimately dispatched the Charleston native, 7-5, 6-1.