On to the next obstacle
Stanford's Gibbs puts team title aside to focus on singles play
URBANA, Ill. -- The last time Stanford’s Nicole Gibbs faced off against Texas A&M’s Christina Sanchez-Quintanar, both girls were vying for the team national championship on Tuesday. Gibbs defeated Sanchez-Quintanar 0-6, 6-2, 6-0 and Stanford eventually took home its 17th national title.
The next day, Gibbs had to push aside her euphoria and get back in the game, this time in the NCAA individual tournament. Separating herself from the exhaustion and competing for a team to focusing on winning an individual title was easier said than done.
“It’s a little bit of a refocusing act. After such an emotional and draining event [winning the national title], it was a little hard to come back the next day and play for myself and not for a team,” Gibbs said. “It has been a little draining in terms of my energy, but I have been able to get my competitive spirit going and I think it will get easier and easier to draw on that part of my game.”
In the Round of 16 of the individual tournament, the intensity grew exponentially as Gibbs met up with Sanchez-Quintanar again, not knowing what to expect.
“It was going to be gritty out there. She makes a lot of good balls and makes you do some weird things to do get points,” she said.
Gibbs, ranked 13th going into the tournament, defeated Sanchez-Quintanar for the second time in three days in an intense 6-4, 6-4 match that went on for two hours.
The reigning NCAA singles champion had several reasons to be wary heading into the individual match. Sanchez-Quintanar, who was ranked as the No. 4 seed coming into the national tournament, is a two-time All-American and entered the match with a 41-8 record.
At the beginning of Friday’s match, Sanchez-Quintanar gave Gibbs quite a scare. However, she used her knowledge of what few weaknesses Sanchez-Quintanar has to push herself to victory.
“Down 4-1 in the first set, I just started rolling her up more and trying to get short balls and taking her off the court with angles and bigger balls,” Gibbs said.
With the stress of winning the national team championship, Gibbs barely remembers playing Sanchez-Quintanar on Tuesday. She had to adapt again and go off of gut instinct to defeat A&M’s top player.
“That was such a weird match. She won the first eight games and I won the next 12. I guess I came out here kind of hoping I would continue that,” she said. “Then I started out 4-1 and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, the same thing [as the national tournament] was happening again!’ But then it turned into a more normal match.”
Even though Tuesday’s match against Sanchez-Quintanar was difficult, Gibbs is expecting everyone else participating to find their rhythm as the tournament goes on and for the competition to become even tougher and messier.
“The biggest thing I will take away from all of my matches is my confidence and my competitive skills. The tennis will be there for everyone late in the week; people are going to be playing well and finding their game, so it’s about finding ways to win,” she said.
Gibbs is also the reigning doubles national champion, only the third player in NCAA history to capture both titles in the same year.