Colombian Angelica Bernal enjoying ‘magical’ Grand Slam debut at 2020 US Open Wheelchair Competition

A report by Victoria Chiesa for The US Open website.

After a history-making effort by players from her country at the US Open last year, Colombia’s Angelica Bernal hopes to be next up in New York. 

Making her Grand Slam debut at the 2020 US Open Wheelchair Competition presented by Deloitte, Bernal completed the women’s semifinal lineup by virtue of a comeback win over Great Britain’s Lucy Shuker, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, in a quarterfinal that began on Court 11 and moved inside to the Indoor Tennis Center after just six games. 

“I really felt nervous today because it was my first match at a Grand Slam, but it’s good that it started raining because I could stop and feel better before we started again,” Bernal said after the match on Thursday. “I also felt nervous because the last few times I played against her, I won, so I felt pressure because of that.”

With just four of the Top 8 players in the world entered in the tournament to start the week, the 10th-ranked Bernal earned direct entry to compete in a maiden major. 

The debut is the latest in a recent series of milestones for the 25-year-old, who was the singles gold medalist and doubles silver medalist at the Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru last summer, and ended 2019 inside the Top 10 for the first time.

“It’s magical to be here and to play my first Grand Slam,” she said. “Last year, Maria Camila Osorio Serrano won the juniors, and Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal won in doubles, so the US Open is special for Colombian people. 

“Now, I’m here in a Grand Slam and have the ranking of No. 10 in the world. It’s important… because we’re showing that the Colombian people have ability to play very good tennis.”

A native of Bogota, Bernal is one of just four women from her country in the UNIQLO/ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour’s world rankings, and a pioneer in more ways than one back home. She has been running a wheelchair tennis school, called Semillas sin Barreras, for children and teenagers with disabilities with the help of her father and other coaches for the past decade.

And even if she hadn’t come away with a victory on Thursday, Bernal was already assured of a scrapbook-worthy memory from her first Slam. Following her first practice session on-site on Tuesday, the top-ranked Colombian on the wheelchair tour snagged a snapshot with a famous face.

Through a fit of giggles, she broke its origins down. 

“I was practicing on one court, and Serena Williams came to practice on the second court,” she said. “I couldn’t believe that I was so close to Serena, so when she finished her practice, I asked to take a picture with her.”

By winning the lone women’s quarterfinal to go to three sets on Thursday, Bernal put in hard work to earn her spot alongside world No. 1 Diede de Groot, world No. 2 Yui Kamiji and world No. 4 Marjolein Buis, but she’ll have little time to dwell on it.

Scheduled to play Kamiji in the singles semifinals second on Louis Armstrong Stadium on Friday, Bernal will partner with American Dana Mathewson against Kamiji and Jordanne Whiley for a spot in the doubles final to close out the day’s schedule. 

“I feel good for the singles against Kamiji. She’s No. 2 in the world and I never won against her, but I feel better now,” she said. “For doubles, I like to play with and I feel really good with Dana. We enjoy the match together, so we’ll see.” 

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