When she was 11, Giuliana Olmos stepped onto a plane in San Francisco and flew to Austin, Texas. She stayed in a hotel and competed in the “Little Mo” tennis nationals, sponsored by the Maureen Connolly Foundation. Imagining herself as a professional, she loved everything about it.

“My parents didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, so my dad would only send me to a tournament if he thought I could actually win it,” Olmos said from the recent tournament in Zhengzhou, China. “He was like, `I can’t afford to send you if you’re going to lose in the first round.’

“That motivated me to think, `Yeah, I want to be good enough that he thinks I can win these tournaments.’”

Olmos lost in the “Little Mo” quarterfinals or semifinals -- she can’t remember which -- but, traveling to Park City, Utah with her mother, she won her first international tournament in the second try.

Today at 30, she’s a fixture on the Hologic WTA Tour, reaching a career-high No.6 earlier this year in doubles. Olmos, who represents Mexico, has recorded many firsts for her country:

  • Playing with Desirae Krawczyk, she became the first Mexican player in the Open Era to reach a WTA Tour final at the 2018 Monterrey Open.
  • A year later, she became the first Mexican to win a WTA Tour title, again with Krawczyk, at the Nottingham Open.
  • Last year at the US Open, paired with Gabriela Dabrowski, she became the first Mexican women to be ranked inside the Top 10 in either singles or doubles.

And while she didn’t qualify for the upcoming GNP Seguros WTA Finals in Cancun, she’s excited that the women’s year-end showcase is in Mexico for the second time in three years.

I definitely have some FOMO [fear of missing out] because I won’t be there this year,” Olmos said. “I played in Guadalajara [in 2021] when Mexico had the finals for the first time. As a Mexican, it’s really special for our country and also to be in it. But I think it’s also really important that our country invests not only in women’s sports, but women’s tennis.


“I think it’s critical we bring as many tournaments to Mexico as we can. We have Guadalajara, Monterrey, Tampico. It’s also important that we give our own players wildcards and opportunities to play these great events. I think it proves that if we give our own players these opportunities, they [singles players] can be at the top of these events.”

Even for a tennis player, Olmos has an unusual origin story.

Her father, Roman, is from Mazatlan, Mexico and her mother, Marion, hails from Taxenbach, Austria. They both studied abroad in the United States and, after Olmos and two sisters were born in Austria, relocated to Fremont, California in the San Francisco Bay Area.

With citizenship in three countries, Giuliana played for the United States as a junior until she was 16, when she accepted an offer from the Mexican Tennis Federation, which placed her on the Junior Fed Cup and Fed Cup teams. Mexican role models were hard to find, so after Olmos and her mother watched Kim Clijsters play a number of matches on television, they adopted her as their favorite.


“I just loved how nice Kim was as a person, the fans loved her, she was well-liked in the locker room,” Olmos said. “She was a great competitor. I think that was someone I wanted to aspire to be when I was on tour. She was so consistent, always had the same clothing sponsor [Fila]. She always stayed with the company [Fila] that believed in her and I want to do the same.”

And so she has. Olmos, now 30, has had the same apparel sponsor, Dallas-based InPhorm, since she joined the tour. Last year at Wimbledon, Olmos approached Clijsters for a picture.

“Screaming inside, yeah,” Olmos said, laughing. “It was really cool.”

Growing up, Olmos remembers watching Melissa Torrez (ranked a career-high at No.227 in 2008), when she was playing at Stanford and got the opportunity to hit with her once. Another time, her parents took her to see golfer Lorena Ochoa play a local event.

“Just to realize Mexico had the No.1 player in the world, even though it was a very different sport, I did appreciate that,” Olmos said. “We don’t have a lot of players, but I think it’s cool just to have someone for the girls that are younger than us to have someone to look up to and strive to be -- and even strive to be better than us. It’s cool to know if we can make it, they can make it, too.”

That’s why, when Olmos’ schedule allows, she opts in for international play. Her Billie Jean King Cup record for Mexico is 18-14 and she was selected captain at the 2022 BJK Cup Americas Zone competition.

“It’s the greatest honor and privilege to represent your country,” Olmos said. “I just think of it, as every time I play I’m representing not just myself, but the millions of people there. When I play in Mexico, it’s more special because I see everybody in the stadium -- and everyone is Mexican and it’s me and these 2,000 people against whomever I’m playing.”

Representing Mexico, she said, lifts her game.

“Not that I don’t try hard, but I feel like a I try a little bit harder, play with a little bit more pride,” Olmos said. “Obviously, you don’t want to let your country and your teammates down. It’s definitely more motivating because you are playing for something bigger than yourself. It puts a lot of things in perspective.”

Olmos played four years at the University of Southern California, earning ITA All-American honors and graduated in 2016, majoring in international relations, minoring in occupational therapy.

In 2021, she paired with Sharon Fichman to win the WTA 1000 title in Rome and last year took the Madrid 1000 crown with Dabrowski. This season has been a continual work in progress, with Olmos playing with 11 different partners, most often with Hao-Ching Chan, a 30-year-old from China, and Asia Muhammad. But there should be better continuity in 2024.

Although Olmos and Chan lost their most recent match in the first round at Zhengzhou in straight sets, they were coming off a terrific week at the China Open in Beijing, when they reached the finals. In between the quarterfinals and semifinals, the two players made a pact to play together next season.

Olmos is unquestionably the best women’s player in Mexico; 40-year-old Santiago Gonzalez is ranked No.12 among ATP Tour players in doubles. Considering Mexico is a nation of 126 million people, what does that mean to her?

“When you say the numbers, it’s very cool, but I don’t let it bother me too much,” Olmos said. “Some of the reason I think our singles players are doing a little bit better -- I don’t want to say because of me -- but seeing your peers do it. I always get excited when our singles players do really well. We’re pretty tight-knit, even though we’re not always together.”

When she reached the Beijing final, she received congratulatory texts from Mexico’s top-ranked singles players, Renata Zarazua (No.160) and Marcela Zacarias (No.337). These are the players trying to create a winning culture in Mexican tennis.

“It’s tough in Mexico,” Olmos said. “We don’t have as many tennis academies as the U.S.  I live in Los Angeles and all of our top players live in the States, even on the men’s side. A lot of them moved there for tennis. We don’t receive as much support from our federation.”

That’s why it’s important for Olmos and her peers to succeed. While tennis is a higher profile sport in places like the United States, Europe and Australia, it is far down the list in Mexico. Cancun hosting the WTA Finals, she said, will help raise the profile of women’s tennis. It’s the same concept that motivated her to prove to her father she could excel in tennis.

“It shows not only the current players but even the upcoming players that our country and our federation are willing to invest in us,” Olmos said. “If someone believes enough in you to invest in you, it makes you feel good, makes you believe in yourself.”