ITALY - “I don't like to talk about me,” Camila Giorgi told reporters, speaking on the eve of the biggest match of her career set to face Serena Williams at Wimbledon in her first-ever Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Indeed, the camera-shy Italian has flown under the radar for much of her professional career, and along the way she’s quietly amassed an impressive resume of Top 10 wins and multiple WTA titles - as well as a reputation for being able to blow any draw wide open after springing a trademark upset.
But her soft-spoken demeanor is a complete contrast to her on-court persona: armed with powerful flat groundstrokes, Giorgi is well known as one of the most aggressive players on tour. Still, she’s happy to let Sergio - her dad and coach - handle the limelight while she lets her own tennis do the talking.
In this 2019 WTA Scouting Report, hear from Camila and Sergio as we review the Italian’s career-best season and learn why she’ll be a big threat to the tennis establishment in the months to come.
1. Giorgi started the year ranked World No.100, and ended at a career-high:
After being sidelined due to injuries for the last half of 2017, Giorgi started the year ranked No.80 in the world, and then quickly plunged down to No.100 after a first-round loss in Shenzhen. It was her lowest start to any WTA season since 2013, when she entered the Australian Open as the No.99 player.
But a complete turnaround in fortunes would follow just one week after that Shenzhen Open showing, and her upward trajectory would take her to new heights - ending the year with a second WTA title to her name and sitting at a career-high ranking of World No.26.
"And it will be  without having played Doha, Dubai, Indian Wells, Madrid, Beijing and many other important tournaments,” added coach Sergio Giorgi, speaking to Italian journalist Giulio Gasparin for SportFace.It. “Next year what will be more important is that she's physically good. We hope to enter Sydney so we can do the triptych of Australian tournaments [Brisbane, Sydney and the Australian Open]."
2. She made a splash in Sydney, knocking out a trio of big names:
Putting her Shenzhen loss behind her, Giorgi rallied in Sydney - qualifying for the main draw on a tear. And then, she knocked out US Open winner Sloane Stephens in the first round - dropping just three games in the process - defeated Petra Kvitova in straight sets the next round and then dumped Agnieszka Radwanska out of the quarterfinals.
The Italian was decidedly understated when she discussed her red-hot run of form in Sydney:
“Actually, I think last year, too, I was playing good. But I didn't always have chance to play. So this was my big issue, [I] can say,” she said in reference to her snake-bitten 2017 season.
“But to play like this, you need to win some matches. And then after, I can play my game and be more focused a bit of the important points, more than before. I just come here to play match by match and try to improve every match... Try to make less mistakes and work in other things.”
3. It’s even more impressive considering the way she’d finished 2017.
Her Sydney heroics are even more impressive considering she hadn’t competed in almost five months after an elbow injury forced Giorgi to call an end to her 2017 season following the US Open.
“I stopped playing for three months last year for this problem, so it was very difficult starting the year in Shenzhen,” she recalled in a Sydney press conference. “It was not easy because it was the first match after many months without official match.
“It was very difficult because I was playing very good but I had many, many injuries that I couldn't play. I mean, I stopped playing after US Open, for example. I was injured. And from there, I finished my year.
“I was withdrawing every tournament and hoping that I was better, but not. But now I'm good. I'm in shape, so this is the most important.”
4. Giorgi's role as a dangerous wildcard is well known.
Her victories over Stephens, Kvitova and Radwanska in Sydney might have turned heads, but fans of Giorgi weren’t too surprised at the big-name wins.
According to Giorgi, it’s because she approaches every match the same way: “I just think about my game, I don’t care who I’m playing next or who is my opponent.”
As a result she’s earned herself a reputation for being a dangerous floater in any WTA draw, and over her career she’s amassed an impressive collection of top-ranked scalps.
In fact, Giorgi’s three-set stunner over World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki at this year’s Toray Pan Pacific Open added to her nine previous Top 10 victories, which have come over the likes of Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska, Elina Svitolina, and more.
5. That giant-killing mentality propelled Giorgi to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon.
Giorgi made her resurgence known in her semifinal run at Sydney, and backed it up later with strong results during the clay season on the Italian’s least favorite surface: she reached the semifinals in Prague and recorded her best-ever finish at Roland Garros with a third-round appearance.
But it wasn’t until the tour turned to grass courts that the world sat up and took notice of the world-beating 27-year-old, who knocked out a seeded player in the first round and powered into her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon.
After so many years of hard work - Giorgi turned pro in 2006 and made her Grand Slam main draw debut in 2011 - was the Italian surprised that it had taken her so long to reach a quarterfinal?
“No, I'm not surprised, I always work to be here,” Giorgi told press at Wimbledon. “I think it's in the last two years that I was always, like, injured sometimes, having many problems physically. I think this year I have more continuity. It's because of that I can make it here.”
6. She played the biggest match of her life against Serena Williams on Centre Court.
Standing across the net from Giorgi in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal was none other than the resurgent Serena Williams, who was in red-hot form as she made her way back onto the tour after taking maternity leave.
Ahead of the match, Serena had this to say about Giorgi: "Camila has a powerful game. She is small but very aggressive for her size. She moves well on grass and I have watched her play a lot. I kind of know her game and am looking forward to the match."
In fact, Giorgi was the only player to take a set off of Serena before the Wimbledon final - but despite pushing the 23-time Grand Slam champion she eventually succumbed, falling 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Watch video: Giorgi on her spectuacular effort against Serena
Serena had nothing but high praise for her opponent afterwards. "Every time I play Giorgi, she always plays at a high level," she said. "But she plays that level against everyone, so that's even more impressive: that she always plays like that no matter who she plays. I knew going in, that it wouldn't be an easy match."
And despite the defeat, Giorgi showed the same quiet calm in her post-match press conference as she had throughout the rest of the week. “I'm very happy. I mean, I play a great level today,” she told press. “This [experience] help me a lot for the year. I think it's been a great week.”
7. An ailing Giorgi capped off the year with a big win in Linz.
Her experience on the big stage at Wimbledon certainly set up Giorgi for success in the second half of the WTA season. She steadily climbed up the rankings, winning four matches in a row once again to qualify for New Haven and reach the second round.
She put together an impressive run in Tokyo (Toray Pan Pacific), where she stunned World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki in three sets before falling in the semifinals to eventual finalist - and newly-minted US Open champion - Naomi Osaka.
But it was in the second-to-last week of the WTA season that it all came together for the Italian, capping off her career-best year with a title at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz.
Camila dropped just one set on her way to lifting the International-level trophy, but dad Sergio admitted afterward that things weren’t quite as simple as they looked on court.
“Camila made a huge sacrifice in this tournament, she did not train for ten days and still wanted to go to Linz,” he told Sportface.It, revealing that Giorgi had been nursing a leg injury. “She decided to play and she was excited for that in the end.
“She won this tournament without training... she played without a leg, it was incredible. I was worried because I knew how she was, and I asked if she wanted to retire. She did not want to - it was impressive.”
Linz was Giorgi’s second career title after her triumph at ‘s-Hertogenbosch in 2015. She’s also reached four WTA finals: Linz in 2014 and Katowice in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
8. Giorgi is coached by her dad, Sergio - although he’s never actually played tennis.
It’s easy to spot Sergio Giorgi on the sidelines of Camila’s matches: the long-haired Argentinian looks frazzled and permanently stressed no matter what the score, but is always quick to smile and up for a chat.
Both of Camila’s parents hail from La Plata, Argentina - dad Sergio was a Falklands War veteran - and later immigrated to Italy, where Camila was born. Her mom, Claudia, is a fashion designer who creates all of Camila’s tennis dresses, while her father coaches Camila full time. She has two brothers - Leandro, who is older, and Amadeus, the youngest - and a sister, Antonella, who passed away in a car crash at the age of 23.
Camila inherited her camera-shy nature from her mom, who rarely travels to watch her daughter compete, preferring life behind the scenes. Sergio recounts: “[Claudia] is very reserved, just like Camila… The few times she came to see Cami play, she sat far from me, and I remember once she was photographed and she was furious about that.”
Originally a medical student in Argentina, Sergio received a scholarship to study in Italy and so moved the family to Macerata, but later became a physical trainer at the University of Macerata’s University Sport Centre.
“I should have kept studying, but in two years I only passed four exams, as much as I tried, because I had four children and I couldn’t go on,” Sergio explained. “My wife used to teach History of Contemporary Art at the university, so I started to work for her, but it was not my place. I was feeling oppressed by working in a office, [so I would] run away and do other jobs and I was coaching conditioning trainings on the side.”
9. Before picking up a tennis racquet for Italy, Camila almost became a gymnast.
After years helping coach and train kids across various sports, Sergio was quick to spot early signs of athletic prowess in Camila.
When she was just three years old, Camila was already being courted by the Italian federation… but for gymnastics. “In Macerata Camila began to practice artistic gymnastics,” Sergio explained. “She was very good and had very strict Russian masters. She was called into the national team, but we had to move to Milan and so we couldn’t accept.”
Later, five-year-old Camila saw her older brother playing tennis and immediately wanted to join in. Realizing that a professional tennis player could enjoy a longer career than a gymnast, Sergio nudged her interest in that direction.
But the beginning was a bit... rough. For one, Sergio had never played tennis himself.
“I never picked up a racket in my life, to give her the ball was a disaster!” he recalled. Conditions were also harsh, training indoors in the winter without heating: “[Camila] was crying, my wife wanted to kill me. But to make a professional, it takes physical strength and an iron mentality. So for four or five months we went on like this.”
That hard work certainly paid off: by age 11, Giorgi was training at the Patrick Mouratoglou Academy and would spend four years working with Serena Williams’ future coach. She was also offered a seven-month trial by famed coach Nick Bollettieri, who had worked with Maria Sharapova and helped develop many of tennis’ biggest stars.
10. Giorgi carries the flag for Italy, and will soon rejoin the Fed Cup team.
Giorgi’s countrywomen had previously defined a period of Italian tennis success, with Francesca Schiavone’s breakthrough French Open win, Flavia Pennetta’s US Open love affair, and Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci’s Career Grand Slam in doubles.
But as that generation retired or otherwise diminished, Giorgi stands as the lone representative for her country in the game’s upper echelons. In fact, she’s the only Azzurra in the WTA’s Top 100 as Errani - who has spent the last six months serving a suspension for doping - occupies the second-highest spot at No.108.
However, Giorgi’s last appearance for Italy in Fed Cup took place almost three years ago in February 2016, as she’s found herself at odds with the Italian Tennis Federation (FIT). In 2017, she was penalized for skipping a Fed Cup call-up the year before in favor of playing qualies in Stuttgart, which resulted in Giorgi being barred from training at Federation facilities, competing in Fed Cup, and receiving wildcards for the BNL Internazionali d’Italia.
Much to the relief of Italian tennis fans, however, Giorgi and the Federation seemed to have now patched things up: after meeting with Angelo Binaghi, the president of the Italian Tennis Federation earlier this year in Rome, Giorgi issued the following statement:
"I realized that two years ago I was wrong not to respond to the convocation for the Fed Cup match against Spain. I missed the Azzurra jersey and I feel the desire to wear it again and to be part of a young team that is growing.”
Binaghi concurred, stating: "When in the last few days Camila asked to meet me I understood that finally this story was coming to a positive conclusion after the misunderstandings of the past. Camila is a proud symbol of Italian tennis and I am convinced that this step will also benefit her career in the circuit.”