The Insider Wrap is a weekly recap of everything you need to know from the week that was. This week, WTA Insider looks back at the first week of the clay season, which crowned two first-time WTA champions.
Performance of the Week: Veronika Kudermetova
After a three-month hardcourt season that saw all WTA 500 and WTA 1000 events won by current or former Top 20 players, the first week of the clay season delivered a surprising first-time champion. Russia's Veronika Kudermetova has been an early-round threat for the past three seasons, but she had yet to get her hands on a trophy.
In a field that saw No.1 Ashleigh Barty, Petra Kvitova and Garbiñe Muguruza, Kudermetova played every match as the ranking favorite and did not lose a set. She finished off her week by defeating Sloane Stephens, Paula Badosa and Danka Kovinic. Kudermetova was clinical and business-like, right up to her understated match-point celebration, but she could not hide the joy and relief she felt after her week was done.
Surprise of the Week: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano
The 19-year-old Colombian was due to earn her spot as a regular feature on the WTA Tour, but not even Cami thought it would come so soon. The former junior No.1 and girls' champion of the 2019 US Open, Osorio Serrano was the talk of Bogota last week, as she made good on her wildcard to methodically march her way through the draw to win her maiden WTA title on home soil, losing just one set.
The bubbly teenager defeated Sachia Vickery, Tereza Martincova, Stefanie Voegele and Harmony Tan in straight sets to make the final, and then rallied from a set down to defeat No.5 seed Tamara Zidansek 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in the longest final of the season.
Osorio Serrano will surge up to a career-high No.135, putting her within striking distance of earning direct entries into Slams and WTA qualifying. When asked which events and top players she's looking forward to playing now that she'll be on the more frequently, Osorio Serrano held back tears.
"When you asked me that I feel so happy, I want to cry so much," she said. "I really want to start playing on tour and I really hope I can start playing these top players. I love Barty. I love her game, I love how she plays. I had the opportunity to play Bianca, but I love the way she plays. I would love to play with them.
"Bianca, the heart that she has, it's crazy. I think that's what I did this week. The same as her."
The Montenegrin had just to wins this season when she came to Charleston. She made the biggest final of her career by plowing through a field of favorites, defeating Monterrey champion Leylah Fernandez, Doha champion Petra Kvitova, Yulia Putintseva, and Ons Jabeur. Kudermetova proved too solid in the final, but it was an incredible display for the 26-year-old, who was ranked No.91 and will rise to No.65.
Spanish tennis was already having a fantastic 2021 season thanks to Muguruza and Sara Sorribes Tormo - and let's not forget the welcome sight of Carla Suarez Navarro back on a practice court - and now Badosa throws her name into the mix.
Now 23 years old, Badosa was a highly-touted junior who has started to come into her own in the last year. Ranked just inside the Top 100 when the tour resumed last summer, Badosa made the semifinals on clay in Istanbul, her first Round of 16 at a Slam at Roland Garros, and started 2021 with a Round of 16 in Abu Dhabi. In March she booked a spot in the semifinals of Lyon.
In Charleston, Badosa knocked off Belinda Bencic and ended No.1 Barty's eight-match winning streak, handing the Aussie her first loss on clay since 2019 Rome. Badosa is now up to a career-high No.62 and will be a proven threat on the European clay.
As the American said in Charleston, it takes time to find your groove in tennis, but your season can also turn on a dime. Stephens advanced to her first quarterfinal since 2019 Roland Garros, notching three straight-set wins over Wang Xinyu, defending champion Madison Keys and always tough Ajla Tomljanovic. Stephens confirmed a very amicable split with coach Kamau Murray and has been training in Florida with Diego Moyano.
After her third-round win, Stephens was asked to reflect on her start of the season, which has involved trying to play professional tennis while dealing with personal tragedy.
"Everyone has taken the pandemic differently in their approaches. Different expectations are very different. I think for myself personally: I had Covid, I lost three people that were very close to me, I'm in Australia, I literally had to go to my grandparent's funeral on Zoom, and I just was not ready to play. And I think kind of the pressure of contracts and the expectation of being out there and just playing, it wasn't the right time for me. I had a lot going on. Sometimes I think that the expectation of, oh, just get through it and play like is just so far-fetched. You do it anyway and I think it's time to get out of that.
"My happiness isn't really determined by wins and losses. It's more of how I feel when I'm playing in my competitiveness and me wanting to be out there. And when I'm literally talking to, like, grieving counselors and psychologists and all these people all the time because I'm like a mess, that doesn't really have anything to do with my tennis. It's more of just that I've gone through a lot. And to just have the expectation of like, oh, I'm going to get out there and kill it, like, that's not going to happen, right?
"So I think being happy on the court and being able to train and get back to what I was doing before and enable myself to have good results is what I really had to kind of realize. In order to have good results, you have to practice. You have to get out there, you have to have the time, you can't be crying. Life, life happens, you know? And I think that kind of letting life settle and dealing with it and then trying to play tennis is the best way to go."
Nicole Melichar and Demi Schuurs
The American-Dutch duo won their third team title and it came on their weakest surface. Count this as another big win for the doubles specialists on tour, who have been dominating the 2021 Winner's Circle. Melichar and Schuurs are the second team to win two titles in 2021, after winning their first at the Qatar Total Open.
9: Years since a player won Charleston without losing a set. Serena Williams accomplished the feat in 2012.
31: Aces Veronika Kudermetova hit in Charleston. She has overtaken Ashleigh Barty to top the ace leaderboard, with 130 aces to Barty's 127.
4: Teenagers who have won titles in 2021. Osorio Serrano joins Iga Swiatek (19, Adelaide), Clara Tauson (18, Lyon) and Leylah Fernandez (19, Monterrey).
Pic of the Week: Maria Camila Osorio Serrano
Quote of the Week: Nicole Melichar
"Honestly, I wasn't thinking about the car going into the match because I didn't even know if it was true. But with my boyfriend before every match leading up to now, it was just like, hey, if you win, you get sushi. And then today it was like, no, if I win I get pizza.
"So I was thinking about the pizza, but I now I got a car. So I got a car and pizza. It's great!"