Giuliana Olmos has spent much of her career trailblazing for Mexico - so it's entirely appropriate that her journey has taken her to a WTA Finals debut in the year the season-ending finale arrives in her home country.
The 28-year-old became the first Mexican player in the Open Era to reach a WTA final at Monterrey 2018 and the first to win a WTA title at Nottingham 2019, both alongside Desirae Krawczyk. But it's in a new partnership with Canada's Sharon Fichman, who will also be making her WTA Finals debut, that Olmos has scored her career-best results.
Australia: Grand Slam breakthrough
Before 2021, neither Fichman nor Olmos had ever gone beyond the second round of a major. At the Australian Open, though, they opened their campaign with a 1-6, 7-6(1), 6-2 upset of No.5 seeds Hao-Ching and Latisha Chan, which jumpstarted a run to a first Grand Slam quarterfinal. There, they stretched eventual finalists Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova to a third set before falling 7-5, 5-7, 6-2.
A shoulder tear would sideline Fichman for the next two months, but Olmos continued to find success in the meantime - noticeably at Guadalajara, the site of the WTA Finals, where she was runner-up with Krawczyk.
Clay: Roman fairytale
Fichman and Olmos reunited on clay, but between Fichman's return from injury and Olmos suffering from a touch of burnout, it wasn't without difficulties. The pair didn't even make the initial Rome cut, only making the draw as alternates after Ashleigh Barty and Jennifer Brady's withdrawal.
Champions Corner: Fichman and Olmos set aside burnout and injury
But from these unpromising beginnings, Fichman and Olmos soared to their career peak - and they did it the hard way. They won three super-tiebreaks in their first three matches, including a second-round upset of Hsieh Su-Wei and Elise Mertens, and saving match point against Coco Gauff and Veronika Kudermetova in the quarterfinals. In the final against Kristina Mladenovic and Marketa Vondrousova, they found themselves two championship points down again - but overturned the deficit to win their first WTA 1000 title 4-6, 7-5, [10-5].
Road to WTA Finals, singles
- Sabalenka reaches new heights in 2021
- From Roland Garros champ to Top 10, the rise of Krejcikova
- Pliskova secures fifth straight spot in year-end championships
- A history-making season for Greece's Maria Sakkari
- Swiatek strings together impressive sophomore season
- Resurgent Muguruza enjoys milestone season
- Badosa emerges as all-court threat in breakout season
Road to WTA Finals, doubles
- Krejcikova and Siniakova enjoy 2021 renaissance
- Aoyama and Shibahara hit their stride
- Hsieh and Mertens gel after tough start
- Commitment pays off for Melichar-Martinez and Schuurs
- Stosur and Zhang make the best of limited partnership
- From college to the big time for Guarachi and Krawczyk
- Jurak and Klepac play the long game
Fichman and Olmos took that momentum into Roland Garros, where they reached the third round, and on to grass, where they made the Berlin semifinals, Eastbourne quarterfinals and Wimbledon third round.
Fichman's aggravation of her shoulder injury forced their withdrawal from SW19, and ultimately caused the pair to miss the US Open as well. However, they returned in Indian Wells, where they made the second round.