Christian, Santamaria are first USC duo to make doubles final
URBANA, Ill. -- When it comes to women’s tennis, Stanford has dominated since the sport became NCAA officiated in 1982. Cross-town and conference rival Southern California won the team title in 1983 and 1985 and won the singles crown in 1983, but hasn’t made many headlines since.
Junior Kaitlyn Christian and sophomore Sabrina Santamaria hope to change that by becoming the first USC duo to win a doubles championship.
For the first time in Trojan history, a doubles tandem has reached the championship match.
“It feels amazing to represent [USC]. We are playing for everyone there, our teammates, our coaches and everyone [at USC],” Santamaria said.
The second-seeded duo is happy that they have moved out of the shadow of Pac-12 foe Stanford and represent USC’s talent.
After Stanford downed USC 4-3 in the Round of 16 at the team championship (and Christian and Santamaria in the doubles portion), the duo were determined to bounce back in individual play.
“We had a tough loss to [Stanford] earlier in the week and that was actually our first loss of the whole season in doubles. It feels good to finish the season strong after a tough team loss and a tough individual loss,” Christian said.
For Christian, moving on to the final round is especially sweet. She and then-partner Maria Sanchez led USC to the semifinals of the 2011 doubles tournament for the first time in Trojan history, only to suffer a heartbreaking loss to Clemson.
“I learned a lot from [the loss]. I learned how to better manage my nerves. I was so shell-shocked as a freshman; I didn’t know what to expect. I just learned I needed to have a little bit more fun and to stop taking [the tournament] so seriously.
“[Right now] I need to enjoy my partner and to enjoy playing the tough points. I didn’t do that before,” Christian said.
In the 2012 doubles championships, Christian and Santamaria experienced an early disappointment when they fell in the first round.
When it came to the 2013 tournament, the duo was determined not to make the same mistake. They had much more confidence coming in to the tournament with the 2013 Pac-12 doubles championship and 2013 ITA indoors championship under their belts.
Christian and Santamaria knew to enter the court with guns blazing when it came time to face fifth-seeded Tennessee.
“We came into the match really respecting [Tennessee]. We know them pretty well and they were definitely one of the best teams we have played in the country,” Christian said. “We knew we had to come out firing, [give] no freebies and just stay really positive with ourselves and have a lot of fun out there.”
The Trojans defeated the doubles team Brynn Boren and Kata Szekely in a tough 7-5, 7-5 battle. It is Christian and Santamaria’s fourth straight-set match in a row, all occurring at the tournament.
But the duo doesn’t think about the history they are making with the tennis program at their school.
“We just want to have fun out here. If you start thinking about what you get out of this tournament and being the first team to do something, you can’t play. We just try to have fun and keep each other laughing on the tennis court,” Christian said.
In the championship match on Monday, Santamaria and Christian will have to face another Pac-12 rival. The unseeded UCLA duo of Robin Anderson and Skylar defeated seventh-seeded Alabama in their semifinal round.
Christian and Santamaria will be ready for them at their signature posts on the court, with Christian at the baseline and Santamaria at the net.
“[The setup] is very unorthodox, but it works,” Santamaria said.