An Olympic tennis player grabbed her first championship of the year last Sunday in Malibu. 

Nadia Podoroska, a 22-year-old Argentinian, won the seven-day Oracle Pro Series W25 tournament at Pepperdine’s Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center. Podoroska, who will represent her native country in this summer’s Olympics in Japan, defeated Claire Liu, 19, from Thousand Oaks, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, in the event’s championship match in front of an afternoon crowd of over two dozen people. 

Podoroska said the W25 triumph was important to her since it was a come-from-behind victory. The South American tennis player captured the first three games of the initial set, but seemingly lost her winning groove as Liu went on to win the set, 6-4.

“I started by playing good tennis, then I got a little bit nervous, she started playing better,” said Podoroska, whose native tongue isn’t English. “I lost the first set, but then I played good and came back and played my tennis. The key was to play very aggressive and go for the points. It’s very important in tennis to win the match not just when you play amazing.”

Liu won the first and third games of the second set also, but then Podoroska, the tournament’s second seed, took a 3-2 lead. After Liu, the sixth seed, tied the set, the eventual champ won the next three games. 

The match’s final set was knotted at two before Podoroska began to dominate. She jumped out to early leads in most of the following games. She captured three to cement the win, while Liu only won the seventh one. 

Once Podoroska scored the final point to claim the spectacle’s silver cup trophy and $25,000 prize, she swatted a tennis ball up in the air and ran and hugged her coach, who traveled to Malibu with her from Spain where she trains. 

Podoroska, a professional player who has wins on the Women’s Tennis Association Tour and International Tennis Federation Women’s Circuit under her belt, said facing Liu was the toughest match of the week. 

“I just finished my preseason,” she said. “This was the first tournament of the year, so I didn’t want to put pressure on myself to play or do all the things I practiced during the preseason, but it worked.”

Podoroska downed four other opponents in the Malibu tournament before facing Liu for the championship. She defeated Emilia Arango of Colombia, 6-3, 6-1, in the first round on Jan. 14, and Francesca Jones of Great Britain, 7-5, 2-6, 6-2, in the second round. Podoroska beat the U.S.’s Hanna Chang, 6-0, 6-2, in the quarterfinal. She blew past Italy’s Jessica Pieri, 6-1, 6-1, in the semifinal. 

Podoroska told the championship game’s master of ceremonies during the award ceremony on the court that she had a good week playing tennis. A fan of the tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, Podoroska, who has played tennis since she was five, after the ceremony said she always looks to be aggressive on the court. 

The Oracle Pro Series event is held to help young tennis players gain experience and hopefully propel them to the top of the sport. The event features players from college tennis as well as the ATP and WTA Tours. The months-long series also held a tournament at Pepperdine in the fall. That tournament ended with Italian Bianca Turati, a University of Texas tennis player, winning the women’s title and German Daniel Altmaier winning the men’s title. 

Although there was not a men’s bracket at this month’s tournament at Pepperdine, Podoroska wasn’t the only champion crowned over the weekend. Brazil’s Laura Pigossi and the Netherlands’ Rosalie Van der Hoek beat Norway’s Astrid Wanja Brune Olsen and Anastasia Iamachkine, a former Pepperdine player from Peru, 6-4, 7-6, to win the doubles title. 

Podoroska and her partner, Ana Sofia Sanchez of Mexico, advanced to the doubles quarterfinals. 

Last week was Podoroska’s first time playing tennis in Malibu, but not her first time competing in Southern California. In fact, the professional tennis player will compete at a tournament in Newport Beach next week. She is competing in France this week. 

Podoroska won gold in singles play at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. She said the summer games are very important for her and she is looking forward to the experience. Podoroska is also looking to compete in other top tournaments around the globe and move up in the WTA singles rankings.

“I hope to be near the top 100 by the end of the year,” she said. 

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