This article first appeared in the September/October 2021 issue of New York Tennis Magazine. Click Here to read the full digital edition.
Earlier this summer, Giuliana “Gugu” Olmos got the phone call that many athletes from all sports can only dream about getting. While driving with her husband, she answered the phone to find her coach on the other end, informing her that she qualified for the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“I remember I was driving at the time and about to make a left turn, and when my coach told me I just couldn’t believe it,” said Olmos, who is representing Mexico and playing doubles with Renata Zarazua. “I almost hit another car, and my husband had to grab the steering wheel to put me back into the lane…it’s definitely always been a goal of mine, but to be completely honest, it was a goal I never thought I would reach.”
Olmos’ Olympics invite comes on the heels of what has been the most successful year for her on tour. Her and partner, Canadian Sharon Fichman, reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open at the beginning of the year, and would go on to win the Italian Open trophy a few months later.
At the French Open, Olmos paired with Juan Sebastian Cabal of Colombia and the duo advanced to the semifinals.
“This has definitely been my best year so far. I think the difference between this year and others it that I believe I belong,” she said. “I have different expectations of myself. I remember in previous years, I was hoping to qualify for the Slams, or just win one round, and I think this year I know I can do more than that. I just believe in myself more, and have the confidence that I can play well at these top-level tournaments and compete with the best players.”
Since she was 11-years-old, Olmos knew she wanted to be a professional tennis player. She first started playing when she was four-years-old, but actually didn’t enjoy tennis until she got a bit older. There was a time, she says, when she took more enjoyment out of watching other players rather than playing herself when she was tournaments.
That changed when her and her family flew up to San Diego for a tournament when she was 11.
“I just remember loving the feeling of flying to a tournament and staying at a hotel. I felt like a pro,” she recalls. “And I loved that. I had the itch to travel and see the world, which really inspired me. Now I’m lucky enough to do that for a living.”
Olmos starred at the University of Southern California before turning pro, and it took some time for her to become acclimated with that adjustment.
“I think the hardest part of that transition is that you are now by yourself. In college, you travel with your teammates and coaches, and whatever you need, it’s covered and paid for,” she said. “You’re never really alone; you just have to focus on going out there and playing your best. But when you get to the pros, you have to do everything yourself, and there’s added pressure because of that. You are on your own, playing small tournaments in different countries, trying to get enough points to move up the rankings. I think that’s the point when a lot of players decide to quit. It did take me a few years to move up, but every year I felt I was improving, so I never felt stuck. In tennis, there is always room for improvement. I don’t think I’ve hit my ceiling yet, and that makes me excited and keeps me motivated.”
That steady improvement has brought Olmos to where she is today, and landed her a spot in Tokyo representing Mexico in the Olympics.
“I’m here now, and I still can’t believe it,” Olmos said from Tokyo. “It’s so cool to see all these amazing athletes here in the Village. It’s still so surreal, and I can’t wait to play.”
Following her time at the Olympics, Olmos will conclude her summer here in New York at the U.S. Open, where she hopes to continue building off of the success she has had at the Grand Slam events this year.
In New York, Olmos will continue sporting the latest looks from inPhorm, which produces tennis apparel and Athleisure wear, a brand she has been partnered with since 2017.
“My friend [and USC teammate] Kaitlyn [Christian], who is also sponsored by inPhorm, and I would always say in college, ‘Look good, feel good, play good’, and we definitely feel good when we play in inPhorm,” said Olmos. “They approached me back in 2017 and wanted to sponsor me, and at that time I wasn’t highly ranked. I really appreciated the fact that they sponsored me when I was a nobody, and we’re still together today. We have such a strong relationship. I love that I’m so close with [designer] Saad [Hajidin]. You can give him feedback on what you like or don’t like, and it’s great that he works with his athletes and makes the necessary adjustments. He always makes sure we’re comfortable with what we’re playing in.”
"We heard about Gugu from one of our tennis pros. She's known and admired throughout the tennis community as not only a talented athlete and fierce competitor, but as a delightful person. She’s a strong ambassador for our brand, and she looks great in inPhorm."
Giuliana Olmos and Marcelo Arévalo came back to win in the 2021 U.S. Open Mixed Doubles semifinals, and will compete for the title on Friday night. (Photo Credit: Brian Coleman/NY Tennis Magazine)
Looking great and feeling great, Olmos has found herself competing into the late stages of Grand Slams, and is ready to continue to push herself further. She has a fresh perspective on where she is at in life, and appreciates every day that she is able to travel the world doing what she loves.
“I’ve tried to appreciate every tournament I’ve been able to play at, focus on getting better each week, and enjoying the opportunity I have to compete,” she said. “No matter what city I’m in, I try to soak it all in.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org