24 Oct 2017
How watching Federer led to a life of tennis
By Max Woodward
Maria Camila Osorio Serrano can accredit her flourishing tennis career to one person. “Roger Federer,” she says with a grin. “It’s because of him that I’m playing tennis.”
Osorio Serrano was six years old at the time, and her brother was watching TV, waiting for a soccer match that followed a tennis match.
“Roger was playing a final against (Rafa) Nadal,” she recalls. “I was watching that but I didn’t know who they were. I just liked it and I started playing with a ball, hitting it against a wall.”
Osorio Serrano only started playing Junior tennis competitively two years ago, when she was drafted in to represent Colombia at the Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas in September 2015. Her first individual tournament came in January last year and since then she has not looked back, making her Junior Grand Slam debut at Roland Garros in June this year.
As a young player in South America, Osorio Serrano is used to playing on clay, and that was one of the many reasons she was excited to play in Paris. “I think it was the best experience ever,” she enthused. “It was my first Grand Slam and I always wanted to play at Roland Garros, because I started playing on clay.”
The experience of playing at Roland Garros was one thing, but the title of her favourite moment came at her next major appearance, at Wimbledon in July. It was on the hallowed turf at SW19, perhaps the location best-associated with him, that she was finally able to meet her idol.
“I was waiting for him at Roland Garros,” she says, frowning. “But he didn’t play so I was really sad.” Having searched high and low at Wimbledon, she had just finished a match, and when she returned from the locker room, there stood Roger Federer.
“When I came out he was there, doing an interview and I almost cried. I was jumping around and filming, it was so good. It was the best day of my life.”
Since first appearing for the Colombia Junior Fed Cup team, Osorio Serrano has gone on to play for the main team, becoming the youngest player to have ever represented her nation in 2016. She has competed in each of the last two years for Colombia, and holds a 4-2 win-loss record in singles in the competition. She also pulled her Colombia shirt on earlier this month at the 2017 South American Youth Games in Santiago, Chile.
It was a successful outing for the Colombian team, and especially Osorio Serrano. The Cúcuta native claimed gold in the singles, defeating one of her competitors this week, Maria Lourdes Carle in the final. “I played the final against Lourdes,” she says, having just finished practicing with the Argentinian. “She is a really good player.”
She then teamed up with Nicolas Mejia to claim gold in the mixed doubles, her first taste of that style of competition, and also picked up a silver medal in the women’s doubles.
She calmly explained the difference between playing in regular tournaments and representing her nation. “I’m so proud when I play for Colombia,” she says with a smile. “I play for Colombia and it’s a different Camila.”
The Colombian got the call-up to the ITF Junior Masters after American Taylor Johnson was forced to withdraw due to injury and, at just 15 years of age, is one of the youngest competitors at this year’s tournament.
“I’m so happy. It’s an incredible experience. I’m very excited to play because I never thought I would be here. It’s a great experience for me and my career.”
Outside of the court, Osorio Serrano spends a lot of time with her family. “I love to be with my family,” she says, gesturing over to her mother who is coaching her this week. Unlike tennis, she does not claim to be a natural at her other passions.
“I love to dance, but I don’t know how, and I always wanted to be a singer, but I’m so bad.”
Looking ahead to 2018, the Colombian has her eyes on the next step. “I’m going to start playing some professional tournaments,” she says, looking determined. “Mixing it with some Juniors events. I want to finish the year in the Top 500, and in Juniors, I would like to be Top 10.”
She has a personal message for one player in particular though.
“Roger if you see this interview, I love you so much, please play one game with me.”
Roger, the ball is in your court...