Christian and Santamaria secure doubles title

USC junior Kaitlyn Christian and sophomore Sabrina Santamaria notched their third major doubles championship together after claiming the Rivera/ITA All-American Doubles championship for the first time in USC women’s tennis history.

The No. 1 pair in the ITA rankings took down Duke’s Beatrice Capra and Hanna Mar in the finals 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-3 at the Riviera Tennis Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. on Oct. 7.

Quite the pair · USC’s doubles pair of junior Kaitlyn Christian and sophomore Sabrina Santamaria are ranked No. 1 in the country by the ITA. They helped USC win the ITA Doubles championship for the first time ever. – Photo courtesy of Sports Information

After a back-and-forth battle in the first two sets, Christian and Santamaria found themselves tied with the Duke team that had upset No. 3 seed California.

“We didn’t take them lightly,” Christian said. “We both know them from juniors. We respected them and went out there and played our own game.”

Christian and Santamaria pulled ahead to a quick 4-2 lead in the third set and finished off Capra and Mar to claim yet another major doubles crown.

“The biggest thing was reenergizing ourselves and regrouping,” Santamaria said. “Just telling ourselves to play one percent better and that we would get them in the third set.” Before the finals, Christian and Santamaria cruised through three rounds of play after a first round bye.

After defeating a pair from Oklahoma State and another from Illinois both — to the tune of 8-4 — Christian and Santamaria then ousted No. 4-seed, UCLA’s Robin Anderson and Skylar Morton 6-2, 6-2, in the semifinals.

“It was just a combination of us playing really well and concentrating really well,” Santamaria said. “I think the energy was just the biggest factor for us.”

Christian and Santamaria’s doubles accolades include the 2012 Pac-12 Doubles Championship and the 2011 ITA National Indoor Doubles Championship. The two finished the 2011-12 season ranked No. 3.

“We complement each other really well. We’ve been playing together for seven years, so we really know each other’s game styles well,” Christian said.

In the singles draw of the All-Americans, USC also saw two of its players reach the final four.

Sophomore Zoë Scandalis and senior Danielle Lao, ranked No. 7 and No. 11 in the nation, respectively, pushed to the semifinals on Oct. 6 but both fell in straight sets to their opponents.

Christian and Santamaria, who were named the USC Student-Athletes of the Week last week, entered this year ranked No. 1 in the Campbell/ITA Preseason Women’s Doubles rankings.

“Last year, we lost in the first round in the NCAAs. We won indoors, and we play indoors again in two weeks so we want to recapture that title,” Christian said. “We’re hoping to get that title and the NCAA championship at the end of the year.”

The two are also ranked in singles, with Santamaria standing at No. 8 and Christian at No. 54. The next round of rankings, which will include USC’s team ranking, will be released on Jan. 3.

USC will continue its preseason tournament schedule with the ITA Southwest Regionals, which begins on Thursday and runs through Monday, in San Diego, Calif.