“So, let me tell you…”
Colombian teenager Maria Camila Osorio Serrano took an iconic victory lap after winning the Copa Colsanitas, enthusiastically fielding a 50-minute press conference for a throng of largely Spanish-speaking journalists to celebrate her first career WTA title.
“I remember the tournament 11 years ago, in 2010, when Mariana Duque-Mariño, another tennis player from Colombia who is recently retired, won it,” the 19-year-old told me after a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 championship win over Tamara Zindansek. “Yesterday I was talking to my aunt, and she reminded me of how they’d also held a tournament for kids. I was there at eight years old and asking Mariana for a picture, running and following her everywhere because I was hoping to her autograph.
“For me, then, to be playing here and winning the tournament is crazy. It’s something you always dream of, and now I’m there!”
Osorio Serrano was a former junior No. 1 and closed that chapter of her career by winning the 2019 US Open girl’s singles title. A quarterfinalist in Bogota earlier that year, she admitted the transition to pro tournaments had been tougher than expected.
“To be honest, the pandemic kind of helped me,” she said on Sunday. “Of course, it wasn’t good what happened, but for me and for my tennis, I needed to stop. I remember how, after the US Open, I was playing the pro circuit and wasn’t doing great. I was losing a lot in the first round!
“So, I remember when the lockdown began, I thought about how I would have some time to relax a little bit and, more importantly, think about what I needed to improve in my tennis. When the tournaments started again, I started winning more matches. Still maybe not so well, but still, some matches in big tournaments, or big tournaments for me, 80K and 60Ks.”
The third Colombian to win the Copa Colsanitas after four-time champion Fabiola Zuluaga and Duque-Mariño, Osorio Serrano hired famed coach Ricardo Sanchez—known for his work with Jelena Jankovic, Nadia Petrova, and Daniela Hantuchova—in 2020, and endured a near-miss in Monterrey before making good on her potential in front of friends and family.
“I qualified for Monterrey and I was super excited to play there because I had my chances and was playing really well. I lost in the first round to Kaja Juvan, who then tested positive for COVID the next day. So, she had to retire, and I couldn’t believe it; I had this chance and I end up losing to someone who couldn’t play anyway!
“So, for all of this to happen after all of that, it’s crazy.”
Osorio Serrano, who is also sponsored by Colsanitas, dropped just one set all week as a wildcard in Bogota—scoring wins over No. 7 seed Tereza Martincova and former Top 50 star Stefanie Voegele along the way—and is part of a new generation of South American talents led by Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska, who reached the Roland Garros semifinals last fall.
“I’m so happy that we’re making history, and we’re starting to hear more from South American players. 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.”
Set to play the inaugural WTA 250 tournament in Charleston this week, the newly-minted No. 135 is suddenly within striking distance of major main draws, and the opportunities to possibly play idols likes World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and Bianca Andreescu.
“I just feel so happy, I want to cry so much! I really wanted to play on tour, so I’m looking forward to playing all of the top players. I don’t care who! It’ll be so great to face all of these players up at the top. I love Barty. I love her game and how she plays. I’ve played Bianca before, but I also love the way she plays. The heart that Bianca has when she plays is crazy. I think I did the same as her this week!”
It may not be long before Osorio Serrano is the one chased by young autograph seekers; who among them may be inspired to emulate her heroics?
“When I was six, I always said I wanted to be the best player in the world, and make history in the game. I’m excited for what’s next and to start playing again on the tour.”