It might seem like a bit of a stretch to suggest that the No. 2 doubles pairing of junior Kaitlyn Christian and sophomore Sabrina Santamaria entered the NCAA Women’s Doubles Championship in Urbana, Ill., with something to prove. After all, the duo already boasted an ITA/Riviera All-American doubles title and consecutive Pac-12 and ITA National Indoor doubles crowns.
But the decorated tandem also experienced its share of adversity this year, faltering in the opening round of the 2012 NCAA doubles tournament and suffering an upset loss last week to Stanford’s No. 8 team of Kristie Ahn and Nicole Gibbs, which became the tipping point in a tightly contested match that jettisoned the Women of Troy from the NCAA tournament’s Round of 16.
Christian and Santamaria, who have already accomplished a great deal in their two years playing together with still another season left, shrugged off these disappointments to lay claim to a feat never accomplished by a pair of USC teammates: a NCAA women’s doubles championship. The second-year partners capped off their incredible run — one in which they did not surrender a single set — with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over UCLA’s Skylar Morton and Robin Anderson after defeating teams from Northwestern, Oklahoma State, Illinois and Tennessee in previous rounds.
“We finished tough last year with a first-round loss [at the NCAAs],” Christian said. “We came into the season just staying really positive with each other, and after we won All-Americans we just kept rolling and were really having a lot of fun on the tennis court.”
The title match pitted Christian and Santamaria against a familiar foe in Morton and Anderson. The pairs last faced each other in October during the ITA/Riviera All-American semifinals — a match in which the Women of Troy emerged victorious. But before that, the two teams could not have been more evenly matched, as the pairs each won three of their six matches in 2011-12.
“They’re definitely a respectable team, one of the best in the country, and we knew that they were gunning for us,” Santamaria said of Morton and Anderson. “We knew it was going to be a really great match. We knew that if we just stayed solid and positive with each other, then the outcome would take care of itself.”
Christian and Santamaria finished their second season together with a 37-1 overall record, which puts them among the most dominant collegiate doubles seasons of all time. Even after claiming the rare collegiate “Triple Crown” of winning the ITA All-American, the ITA National Indoors and the NCAA tournament, the duo is not yet finished. The NCAA championship victory clinched the pair a wildcard berth into this summer’s U.S. Open.
“I just feel blessed to have the best doubles partner in the world, the best doubles player in the country by my side,” Santamaria said of Christian. “She’s amazing so, honestly, I’m so blessed to be right next to her and go to the U.S. Open.”