South American tennis has been over the years, and still is, a significant force to be reckoned with, but one of the sum of its parts, Colombia, has often struggled to contribute to the continent’s success.
I’d love to be the No. 1 player in the world Maria Camila Osorio Serrano
That all changed last year at Wimbledon when Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah became the first pairing from that nation ever to win a Grand Slam doubles title.
And as if to confirm that Colombian tennis officials and its players – always seemingly in the shadow of their neighbours and nations further afield – meant business, that Grand Slam doubles success was quickly followed up a couple of months later at the US Open junior event, where, aged 17, Maria Camila Osorio Serrano won the girls singles event, a springboard for her launch into the senior professional game.
It’s game on for this young player, born and bred in Cucuta, a vibrant trade centre on the Colombian/Venezuelan border. Despite the Covid-19 delay, she can’t wait to get back on to court, and has no shortage of ambition.
“I’d love to be the No. 1 player in the world,” she declared in May.
Given her family pedigree, there is every chance that she will succeed.
Her grandfather, Rolando, was a football player who competed for Colombia in the 1962 World Cup in Chile; her father was a professional football player and her mother was a basketball player. Juan Sebastian, her 21-year-old brother, is also a professional footballer.
After her US Open success – which saw her lose just one game in the final against American teen, Alexandra Yepifanova 6-1 6-0 – she went on to win two ITF World Tour W25 titles. That saw her achieve a career high ranking of 189 in November.
Even as a junior, she was selected for Fed Cup duty, the youngest Colombian, aged just 14 years, one month and 12 days, to represent her country in that competition.
“I remember it very well. It was incredible,” she recalls. “I was very young and very happy to be there. The ties were in Bolivia and I won a match against Camila Giangreco from Paraguay. I love playing for Colombia. Every single tie is special. I hope we can play the Finals one day.”
She also represented her country in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, which she rates as a better experience even than winning in New York a year later.
“No doubt, that (youth Olympic Games) was the best experience I had as a junior player,” she says. “The tournament was special and very beautiful. To share all the moments with other athletes and to talk to them will be unforgettable. I had so much fun at the Olympic village.”
As well as family success, this young Colombian – like so many of her age – seeks inspiration from her heroes, one of which is Roger Federer, whom she met at Wimbledon last summer.
“He is my idol,” she said. “I looked out for him in Wimbledon and then I saw him, and I cried. I took two pictures with him. In one of them, I still have tears on my face!”
Serrano is on course to have more than just tears for souvenirs in her career.
For her, life on the professional tour is only just beginning, but make no mistake, Colombian tennis is slowly starting to take its place on the world stage.