Maria Camila Osorio Serrano Reaches First-Ever WTA Final

Maria Camila Osorio Serrano is thisclose to claiming her first WTA title.

The 19-year-old Colombian tennis player, the former junior World No.1, continues her Cinderella run on home soil in Bogota’s Copa Colsanitas.

Maria Camila Osorio Serrano

Osorio Serrano, a wildcard in this tournament has had a breakthrough run, which continued on Saturday with an emphatic 6-1, 6-2 semifinal victory over French qualifier Harmony Tan, putting her through to her first WTA singles final in just her fourth career WTA main draw appearance.

Her effort this week has seen her earn her first win against a Top 100 player, beating No.7 seed Tereza Martincova in the second round, before following that up with a victory over former Top 50 player Stefanie Voegele in the last eight. She has not dropped a set in four victories this week.

“I feel super happy to be in the final,” Osorio Serrano said after the match. “I was really hoping to be here and to play in the final. I really don’t feel any pressure and I feel like it’s an opportunity for me to enjoy, to play my best and to do what I’ve been doing the whole week.

“It’s my chance to show my tennis, show my best and I hope that I can play well in this final.”

After winning a nearly 15-minute game to begin the match, Osorio Serrano overwhelmed the French qualifier in the first five games to build a 5-0 lead. Contesting her sixth match of the week, Tan received a medical timeout at the ensuing changeover and saved the bagel, but never found a foothold in the match over the course of 85 minutes.

Though each player landed less than half of her first serves in the match, it was Osorio Serrano who proved all the more effective on return: in all, the wildcard broke serve seven times.

Currently ranked World No.180, Osorio Serrano is the lowest-ranked singles finalist on the WTA this year, and is the third player from her country to play for the title in Bogota. Fabiola Zuluaga won the event four times, in 1999 and 2002-04, and Mariana Duque-Mariño won her crown in 2010.

The former US Open junior champion will play No.5 seed Tamara Zidansek for the title.

At the event’s last staging in 2019, Osorio Serrano reached the quarterfinals as a wildcard before bowing out to eventual Amanda Anisimova in three sets. She and Zidansek, the lone seeded player among those to reach the quarterfinals this week, have never played.

“It would mean a lot to win my first WTA title because that’s what we’re working for,” Zidansek said. “I’ve won two WTA 125Ks, but I remember that feeling, how it felt. Going for my first WTA 250 title, winning that would be amazing.”

Paula Badosa Upsets World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty at Volvo Car Open

Paula Badosa has taken down the World No. 1.

The 23-year-old Spanish tennis player, currently ranked No. 71 in the world, defeated top-ranked Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 6-3 at the Volvo Car Open on Friday.

Paula Badosa

Badosa reached the tournament semifinals in her first time at the season’s opening clay-court tournament. And she was rarely pressured by Australia’s Barty on the way to her first victory over a No. 1 player.

Badosa broke Barty’s serve five times, including the last two times Barty served after the second set was tied 3-all.

“I’m still a little bit shocked. I can’t believe what just happened,” Badosa said. “When the ball went out, I was like, ‘What just happened right now?'”

It was the second time in her past four events that Badosa advanced to the semifinals. She’ll face Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova, the 15th seed, on Saturday for a spot in the championship final.

Barty was coming off a victory at the Miami Open last Saturday and looked strong in her first two matches in Charleston. But she fell behind Badosa and struggled to handle her opponent’s serve.

As Badosa got closer to the upset, she worried about Barty’s ability to rally. “Sometimes these matches are very tough to close,” Badosa said. “Today, I’m quite happy that I managed it well.”

Badosa is looking for their first career WTA titles.

Carlos Alcaraz Among ESPN’s ’21 Under 21′ Tennis Players to Watch in 2021

Carlos Alcaraz is among the phenoms to watch this year…

ESPN has announced tennis’ 21 under 21 for 2021, with the 17-year-old Spanish tennis player among the sport’s rising stars making the grade.

Carlos Alcaraz

Despite the circumstances of the 2020 season, Alcaraz managed to move up 350 spots the rankings by year’s end, moving from No. 491 to No. 141, even reaching a career-high of No. 136 in October.

He started the year with back-to-back titles on the ITF Futures tour and was granted a wild card into the Rio Open in February. And the then-16-year-old made the most of his ATP Tour level debut, upsetting former World No. 17 Albert Ramos-Viñolas in 3 hours, 36 minutes in the opening round to become the first player born in 2003 to win a match and the youngest match winner since 2013. Alcaraz called the victory the high point of his season.

Following the restart of the season in August, Alcaraz went 20-4 in ATP Challenger events and won three titles at Trieste, Barcelona and Alicante, as well as playing in the final at Cordenons. He was named the ATP‘s Newcomer of the Year and is the youngest player in the top 600.

But Alcaraz, who idolizes fellow countryman Rafael Nadal, has even bigger goals for 2021. He hopes to make his first main draw appearance at a major in Australia in February and then play in all of the Grand Slams. As for his ranking? He’s hoping to make another big push in the new year.

“I want to finish the year in the top 50,” he said.

But Alcaraz isn’t the only Latinx tennis player to make the list…

Canada’s Leylah Fernandez completed her high school studies in the spring during the tour stoppage.

The 18-year-old half-Ecuadorian tennis player made her major main draw debut at the Australian Open in January — just a year removed from winning the junior title — but it was what she did in the weeks following the event that raised tennis fans’ eyebrows.

After losing in the first round in Melbourne, Fernandez scored her first win over a top-10 player (Belinda Bencic) while representing Canada in the Fed Cup (now known as the Billie Jean King Cup) in Switzerland. Later that month, she won six matches in seven days as a wild card qualifier in the Mexican Open, rolling into the final, where she ultimately lost to Heather Watson. The following week, she advanced to the quarterfinals at the Monterrey Open, defeating 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens in the second round.

Fernandez made a second-round appearance at the US Open and advanced to the third round of the French Open, where she took a 5-1 first-set lead over Petra Kvitova before the two-time major champion came back to win.

Fernandez thinks her 2021 will be even more successful. Her plan is to reach the top 10 by the end of the year.

Thiago Seyboth Wild wasn’t exactly the favorite entering the Chile Open last February after cracking the top 200 for the first time. But having notched one of the biggest wins of his career the week prior at the Rio Open in 3 hours, 49 minutes — the longest match ever in tournament history — over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, and taking World No. 32 Borna Ćorić to three sets the next round, the then-19-year old Brazilian tennis player was flying high entering the event.

What he did over the course of the week in Santiago was even more impressive.

Seyboth Wild knocked off three seeds en route to the title, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to win an ATP event and the youngest Brazilian champion in the Open era.

He found mixed results after the restart, losing in the first round of the US Open and not making it past qualifying at the French Open. But he made a finals appearance at a Challenger event in Aix-en-Provence, which lifted him to a career-high No. 106 in the rankings.

Seyboth Wild hopes to build off what he achieved in 2020 in the new year, although he says he focused more on some of the small things during the preseason.

Here’s the complete list in alphabetical order:

Carlos Alcaraz
Age: 17
Ranking: 141
Country: Spain
Career highlights: Winner of three ATP Challenger titles and three ITF Futures titles; Won his ATP main draw debut at the 2020 Rio Open

Bianca Andreescu
Age: 20
Ranking: 7
Country: Canada
Career highlights: Champion, 2019 US Open, 2019 Indian Wells and 2019 Canadian Open

Amanda Anisimova
Age: 19
Ranking: 30
Country: USA
Career highlights: Semifinals, 2019 French Open; Champion, 2019 Copa Colsanitas

Felix Auger-Aliassime
Age: 20
Ranking: 21 (77 in doubles)
Country: Canada
Career highlights: Fourth round, 2020 US Open; Six-time ATP finalist; Doubles champion, 2020 Paris Masters 

Leylah Fernandez
Age: 18
Ranking: 88
Country: Canada
Career highlights: Third round, 2020 French Open; Finalist, 2020 Mexican Open

Hugo Gaston
Age: 20
Ranking: 162
Country: France
Career highlights: Fourth round, 2020 French Open

Coco Gauff
Age: 16
Ranking: 48 (45 in doubles)
Country: USA
Career highlights: Fourth round, 2019 Wimbledon and 2020 Australian Open; Doubles quarterfinals, 2020 Australian Open; Champion, 2019 Linz Open; Doubles champion, 2019 Washington Open and 2019 Luxembourg Open

Varvara Gracheva
Age: 20
Ranking: 94
Country: Russia
Career highlights: Third round, 2020 US Open; Seven ITF titles 

Kaja Juvan
Age: 20
Ranking: 104
Country: Slovenia
Career highlights: Second round, 2019 Wimbledon, 2020 US Open, 2020 French Open; Seven ITF titles 

Sebastian Korda
Age: 20
Ranking: 118
Country: USA
Career highlights: Fourth round, 2020 French Open; One title on ATP Challenger Tour 

Marta Kostyuk
Age: 18
Ranking: 99 (112 in doubles)
Country: Ukraine
Career highlights: Third round, 2018 Australian Open, 2020 US Open; Three ITF singles titles, two ITF doubles titles 

Ann Li
Age: 20
Ranking: 98
Country: USA
Career highlights: Third round, 2020 US Open; Three ITF titles 

Caty McNally
Age: 19
Ranking: 121 (42 in doubles)
Country: USA
Career highlights: Third round, 2020 US Open; Doubles quarterfinals, 2020 Australian Open; Doubles champion, 2019 Washington Open and 2019 Luxembourg Open 

Lorenzo Musetti
Age: 18
Ranking: 128
Country: Italy
Career highlights: Semifinals, 2020 Sardinia; Third round, 2020 Italian Open; One ATP Challenger title and two ITF Futures titles 

Brandon Nakashima
Age: 19
Ranking: 166
Country: USA
Career highlights: Second round, 2020 US Open; One ATP Challenger title and two ITF Futures titles 

Anastasia Potapova
Age: 19
Ranking: 101 (133 in doubles)
Country: Russia
Career highlights: Second round, 2019 Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon; Finalist, 2018 Moscow River Cup, 2018 Tashkent Open; Doubles champion, 2018 Moscow River Cup, 2019 Lausanne

Thiago Seyboth Wild
Age: 20
Ranking: 116
Country: Brazil
Career highlights: First round, 2020 US Open; Champion, 2020 Chile Open

Jannik Sinner
Age: 19
Ranking: 37
Country: Italy
Career highlights: Quarterfinals, 2020 French Open; Champion, 2020 Sofia Open, 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals 

Iga Swiatek
Age: 19
Ranking: 17 (75 in doubles)
Country: Poland
Career highlights: Champion, 2020 French Open 

Clara Tauson
Age: 18
Ranking: 152
Country: Denmark
Career highlights: Second round, 2020 French Open; Seven ITF titles 

Dayana Yastremska
Age: 20
Ranking: 29 (90 in doubles)
Country: Ukraine
Career highlights: Fourth round, 2019 Wimbledon; Champion, 2018 Hong Kong, 2019 Hua Hin, 2019 Strasbourg

Rafael Nadal to Lead Spanish Team at Next Month’s ATP Cup

Rafael Nadal is headed back to the court next month…

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star is set to return for the ATP Cup, the season-opening men’s team tennis event, starting February 1, but the United States will be missing because of a change in format that has halved the field.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal, last year’s runner-up, will be joined in the tournament by last year’s ATP Cup champion Novak Djokovic. His Spanish team includes Roberto Bautista Agut, Marcel Granollers and Pablo Carreno Busta.

Diego Schwartzman, Guido Pella, Horacio Zeballos and Maximo Gonzalez will represent Argentina in this year’s tournament, while Alex de Minaur will play for Australia and Steven Diez will represent Canada.

The inaugural event last year featured 24 teams and was played in three Australian cities, with Djokovic’s Serbia team beating Nadal and Spain in the final at Sydney’s Ken Rosewall Arena.

The February 1-5 second edition will involve 12 teams and be played entirely at Melbourne Park amid COVID-19 restrictions, along with WTA and ATP tournaments, in the week leading into the Australian Open.

The draw will be held on January 20, with teams divided into four groups. The winner of each round-robin group will advance to the semifinals.

Qualification for the ATP Cup was based on the ranking of each country’s top player, with Australia included on a wild-card entry. Other competing countries include Austria, Russia, Greece, Germany, Argentina, Italy, Japan, France and Canada.

All players arriving in Melbourne for the Australian Open will be required to quarantine for 14 days before the delayed start of the season’s first major. The Australian Open is usually staged in the last two weeks of January, but it has been pushed back to February 8-21 because of travel and other restrictions in place for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qualifying for the men’s singles draw will take place in Doha, Qatar, and for the women’s in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, both running January 10-13.

As with other sports, the international tennis calendar was disrupted in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, including the postponement of the French Open‘s start from May to September, and the cancellation of Wimbledon for the first time since World War II.

Rosie Casals & Women’s Tennis’ Original 9 to be Subject of Docu-Series About Their Fight for Equality

Rosie Casals’ fight for equal pay (and more) is getting told…

Tennis legend Billie Jean King will narrate a docu-series, featuring her then doubles partner, the 72-year-old Salvadoran American former tennis player, and the other members of the Original 9, that’ll tell the stories of pay inequities, motherhood, LGBTQ+ rights, and intersectionality and diversity in women’s sports.

Billie Jean King & Rosie Casals

Glamour and Condé Nast Entertainment, along with King and Little Monster Films, are producing the series to show the trailblazers who tried to bridge the appalling disparity of pay and standing that female athletes past and present have endured.

The jumping off point was a Glamour cover that focused on how a fed-up King and a group of top female tennis players called the Original 9 tried to bridge the pay gap between the scraps they were getting, and the big paydays limited to their male counterparts.

Rosie Casals

The 27-year old King was the top player in her sport where the entire women’s prize pool was $5,000. King led a group that included Casals, Nancy Richey, Julie Heldman, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Judy Tegart Dalton, Kerry Melville Reid, Peaches Bartkowicz and Kristy Pigeon. They announced their own tour—it became the forerunner of the Women’s Tennis Association– and found enough sponsors and financial support to launch a 23-match tour with an unprecedented $100,000 in prize money.

The series will focus on that and other struggles that led to course corrections, and areas that need to improve. Anyone who watched the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team win the World Cup again in 2019 likely knows of their struggle to be paid comparable to their male counterparts.

The multi-part series will be produced by Oscar winners Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin.

“We’ve made progress in pay equality in and out of sports, but there’s still so much more to do for future generations,” said King. “People have to invest in women—and I don’t mean just women investing in women, I mean everyone. I’m excited to partner with Glamour to bring these vital issues to a wider audience.”

Glamour editor Samantha Barry said that after the magazine exhibited “long history of championing our female sporting heroes and demanding their equal remuneration, we are committing to our first ever long-form docu-series chronicling this historic fight. These are sportswomen, but they are also all women—and this incredible piece of storytelling has the power to reshape all our futures.”

“Jimmy and I have a long history of telling athletes’ stories, digging in to both their sport and a larger narrative of ambition, motivation, and risk,” says Little Monster Films’ Chai Vasarhelyi. “We are passionate about spotlighting new and unheard voices among women athletes, and this series with Glamour and the legendary Billie Jean will capture those character-driven stories. On the court, we’re seeing more and more teams standing united in their activism. Now is the time for this project, as the relationship between our sports and our wider political conversations is at an all-time high.”

 

 

Roberto Bautista Agut to Headline the Three-Event Series ‘UTR Pro Series-Spain’

Roberto Bautista Agut is heading back to the court…

The 32-year-old Spanish professional tennis player will headline the UTR Pro Series-Spain, a three-event series that’ll be played on successive weekends beginning July 10 in Barcelona.

Roberto Bautista Agut

Conspicuous in his absence: ATP No. 2 ranked Rafael Nadal, who hasn’t taken part in any of the growing number of “re-opening” events tennis entrepreneurs and officials have staged during the suspension of ATP and WTA tennis due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Spanish events will feature Bautista Agut, ranked No. 12 in the world, No. 25 Pablo Carreno Busta, and Albert Ramos-Viñolas, who is No. 41. Two of the other committed players are well-known veterans Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez, both of whom are still ranked in the Top 100.

The UTR Pro Series tournament format is modeled on the wildly popular exhibition event created by Roger Federer, the Laver Cup (this year’s event, scheduled for Boston in late September, has been canceled due to a conflict with the postponed French Open). 

The eight participants in the UTR showdown will be divided into two teams. The matches will be best-three sets, but with a match tiebreaker in lieu of a third set.

UTR, or Universal Tennis Rating, is an organization built on the foundation of a rating system that differs substantially from the formal ATP ranking system. It rates all players, including top pros, solely on the basis of their results against each other in recent matches recognized by UTR. It’s already widely used in junior play and by college recruiters, and has sponsored a number of exhibitions in recent months.

Federer is out of action for the rest of the year due to an aggravated knee injury. Novak Djokovic made his first appearance as a player during the coronavirus pandemic in late June, but the four-tournament Adria Tour he conceived turned into a debacle due to an outbreak of coronavirus. Djokovic was among those who tested positive for Covid-19.

Nadal has kept his distance from the exhibition circuit, and has also expressed disappointment at the prospect of playing without fans in attendance at the upcoming US Open. He hasn’t yet decided if he’ll defend his title in New York.

Caroline Garcia Defeats No. 1 Seed Karolina Pliskova to Win Tianjin Open Title

Caroline Garcia is a big winner in China again…

The 24-year-old Spanish-French tennis player outlasted Karolina Pliskova 7-6(7), 6-3 to win the Tianjin Open and earn her first WTA singles title of the season.

Caroline Garcia

After both players held their serves in a tight first set, Garcia, ranked No. 16 in the world, fought from 1-5 down to edge the decisive tiebreak 9-7.

Garcia then won the first five games of the second set before sealing the win over No. 1 seed Pliskova on her serve, winning the match in one hour, 47 minutes.

It’s Garcia’s first WTA title since lifting the Beijing Open in October 2017.

“It’s very nice for me to win a title again, because the emotion and the feeling after the match point is something very special and very difficult to describe,” Garcia told reporters after the match.

“That’s what you’re working on all year long to get, this trophy in your hand and those emotions.”

Maria Sanchez & Asia Muhammad Win the WTA Coupe Banque Nationale’s Women’s Doubles Title

Maria Sanchez is back in the winner’s circle…

The 28-year-old Latina tennis player and her doubles partner Asia Muhammad defeated Croatia’s Darija Jurak and Switzerland’s Xenia Knoll to win the WTA Coupe Banque Nationale women’s doubles title.

Maria Sanchez

The unranked Sanchez and Muhammad defeated the tournament’s No. 2 seeds in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3.

It’s Sanchez’s second WTA title, her first since winning the ASB Classic in 2014.

Carla Suarez Navarro Defeats Maria Sharapova to Advance to the US Open Quarterfinals

It’s a birthday to remember for Carla Suarez Navarro

The Spanish tennis player ended former World No. 1 Maria Sharapova‘s perfect record in night matches at the US Open, reaching the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-3 victory Monday on her 30th birthday.

Carla Suarez Navarro

Suarez Navarro, the No. 30 seed at Flushing Meadows, face 2017 runner-up Madison Keys in her bid to reach the first Grand Slam semifinal of her career.

Sharapova, seeded 22nd, had been 22-0 under the lights in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The 2006 champion has lost in the fourth round of her past three appearances.

“Just a little too up-and-down,” is the way Sharapova described her performance Monday.

Sharapova collected the trophy in New York at age 19 in 2006 and owns a total of five Grand Slam titles, but the Russian was far shakier during this match than Suarez Navarro, who never has made it past the quarterfinals at a major.

The Spaniard will be at that stage for the second time at the US Open, five years after her other run to that round.

“A really complete performance,” is the way she described her play.

Suarez Navarro let the 22nd-seeded Sharapova create her own problems.

Sharapova had all sorts of trouble serving, repeatedly catching wayward ball tosses and committing eight double faults. She was broken in six of her 10 service games.

During lengthy exchanges from the baseline, Sharapova often blinked first, although a couple of times the righty managed to switch her racket to her left hand for a desperation shot to extend a point.

While both women finished with 15 winners, Sharapova had nearly twice as many unforced errors as Suarez Navarro, 38-20.

“I didn’t take care of the chances that I had. By ‘chances,’ I mean the balls that were a little bit shorter. I hesitated to move forward,” Sharapova said. “The balls where I did attack, I made unforced errors, especially on that inside-out forehand today.”

Since her championship, Sharapova has only once made it to the quarterfinals at the US Open — in 2012, when she lost in the semifinals. Since then, the best she has done are fourth-round exits in 2014, 2017 and 2018.

After this latest loss, Sharapova was asked whether she envisions herself getting back to her best in the future.

“First of all, if I didn’t have the belief to keep doing this and to keep having the motivation and the grind of doing this every day in order to get myself in these positions, I don’t think I would be here. I think I’ve done plenty in my career, established a lot for myself personally, professionally,” she replied.

“The belief is not something that I’m eager to show everybody else,” Sharapova continued. “The belief matters most when it’s internal and when you have a passion for something. If you don’t, it’s your choice to not continue that, not for anyone else to tell you so.”

Carla Suarez Navarro Advances to Connecticut Open Final…

Carla Suarez Navarro is one win away from her next title…

The 29-year-old Spanish tennis player will compete for the Connecticut Open championship, despite completing just one full match this week and playing less than four sets.

Carla Suarez Navarro 

Navarro advanced Friday when Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig retired during their first set of their semifinal with an abdominal injury.

Suarez Navarro will face Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, who upset fifth-seeded Julia Goerges 6-4, 7-6 (3) in the first semifinal.

“I feel like I didn’t play and I’m in the final,” Suarez Navarro said. “But, well, I cannot do nothing.”

Suarez Navarro won her first match against Barbora Strycova in straight sets. Her second-round opponent, Johanna Konta, withdrew with an illness. She was leading 6-3 in the quarterfinals Thursday when third-seeded Petra Kvitova bowed out with a shoulder injury.

Puig was leading 4-3 after exchanging service breaks with Suarez Navarro when she left the court holding her abdomen. Puig, the reigning Olympic champion, returned five minutes later, lost the next game, then approached the net in tears and announced she could not continue.

“It was a bit of an abdominal strain that I started feeling in my second service game,” Puig said. “I just gradually got worse from there. Obviously, with the US Open so close, it’s better not to make it worse, miss a tournament. I mean, I already know the consequences of getting injured and missing a Grand Slam. That’s not ideal.”

Puig  said she is hopeful of playing in New York against Stefanie Vogele of Switzerland on Tuesday.

Suarez Navarro will be seeking her third career WTA title.