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Latinx Heritage Month: Giuliana Olmos

Sep 25, 2020

The sport of tennis welcomes competitors from all over the world.

Thanks to that spirit, USC alum Giuliana "GuGu" Olmos fits right in, as an Austrian-born woman who was raised in California, but now represents Mexico on the world stage.

Olmos' father, Roman, is from Mazatlán, Mexico, while her mother, Marion, is from Taxenbach, Austria. Both of Olmos' parents studied abroad in the United States when they were young, and after their daughter was born, they decided to permanently move to America. They settled in Fremont, Calif.

Roman's first job in the states was at a Burger King, where he made just $5.25 an hour. But he and his wife worked their way up to be able to support Olmos and her two younger sisters, and get them all involved in tennis.

Roman and Marion wanted to show their daughters that Mexican women could be powerful athletes. They took Giuliana to a local golf tournament to watch Lorena Ochoa — the No. 1 female golfer in the world — compete, and they took her to the tennis tournament at Stanford every year to watch Melissa Torres Sandoval play. They never could have dreamed at the time that Olmos would grow up to play alongside Torres on Mexico's national team.

When Olmos was 16, she was approached by the Mexican Tennis Federation and asked to play for Mexico instead of the United States. They offered to pay for some of her traveling expenses as a junior and gave her a spot on Mexico's Fed Cup team.

Olmos continued to honor her Mexican heritage when chose to play tennis at USC.

"My dad is super proud to be Mexican, so when I was looking at colleges, one thing that was super cool for him was that USC had a lot of really good Mexican tennis players before me," Olmos explained. "For the tennis heritage line, it was really cool that I could go to USC because I could join all the previous Mexican Trojans."

After a successful collegiate career, Olmos went pro.

In 2018, she became the first Mexican player to reach a WTA final. In 2019, she became the first Mexican player to win a WTA title, taking the doubles crown at Nottingham.

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Pumped to get my first WTA title, first title on grass and proud to be the first Mexican to win a WTA title in the open era!!🇲🇽🇲🇽🇲🇽Thanks @des_krawczyk11 for helping me make history! 😘👯‍♀️Thank you to everyone for their support, see you next year Nottingham! Up next, Mallorca! 🇪🇸☀️🏖#naturevalleyopen 🌱💚 😘💋🏆

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This year, she became the first Mexican woman to win the Acapulco Open.

"That one was really special because it was in Mexico, so during changeovers people were chanting and cheering," Olmos explained. "It was like winning at home."

Despite all her personal successes, Olmos points to a team event as one of her proudest moments on the court. Earlier this year, she helped Mexico qualify for the World Group of the Fed Cup for the first time in 29 years.

"It was so special," Olmos said. "We have millions of people in our country, and I'm one of the people that gets to represent them on the tennis court. It's a really big honor."

With all her success, she's now serving as the type of role model that she used to look up to as a young girl. Every time Olmos plays at the Monterrey Open, the same father and daughter come in from out of town to attend her practices and matches.

"I give the girl pictures, autographs, whatever she wants," said Olmos. "When I was younger, I looked up to older players a lot. I know what it's like. If I could just reach one kid, that's enough."

Up next for Olmos is a trip to the French Open in Paris. Remarkably, the only two Mexican players to win the French Open in the Open Era (since 1968) are both USC men's tennis alumni. Raúl Ramírez won the men's doubles titles in 1975 and 1977, while Jorge Lozano won the mixed doubles titles in 1988 and 1990.

While Olmos hopes to keep trailblazing, she's equally interested in the success of her fellow and future countrywomen.

"It's been cool to be the first," she said. "Hopefully I'm not the last."