As Wimbledon comes to a close, one of the players who had the chance to compete at the All England Club for the fourth time in her career reflects on just how impactful playing there actually was for her.
A graduate of USC and a four-year member of the fighting Trojans based in Southern California, Sabrina Santamaria grew up playing tennis nearby in Los Angeles.
“I definitely wanted to stay close to home — that’s why I chose USC; I really liked the coaches and the comradery,” says Santamaria, 29, who has been trained by her father in Griffith Park nearby the observatory seen in Hollywood films over the decades. “I learned how to play for something bigger than yourself which was the greatest thing that I’ve ever done."
The majority of players on the WTA tour playing in doubles and singles tournaments would forego the opportunity to compete in college and head straight for the tour, but from Santamaria’s perspective, there’s a lot to be gained from having committed to playing college tennis first; in her eyes, it trains you well for the challenges athletes will be faced with later on a professional stage.
“College tennis prepared me for the tour — and to be mentally tougher,” Santamaria says. “I would do it all over again if I could.”
In some ways, Santamaria is recreating a college tennis environment that she once thrived in. The NCAA champion and All-American currently trains at the Los Angeles Tennis Club with familiar faces, former teammates and in some cases, opponents: USC alumnae Kaitlyn Christian, Giuliana Olmos and Danielle Lao were all representing the Trojans at the same time, and now compete in similar tournaments year-round.
“It’s nice to train with them!” says Santamaria, who’s played with Volkl racquets for 13 years so far and currently uses the V-Cell 8 300g. “The doubles girls are pretty close, so that has made tour life very manageable.”
While she enjoys training with former teammates, her recent doubles partnership does have an ironic undertone as a UCLA Bruin, Catherine Harrison, is her partner. For Santamaria, it’s about how well their games mesh together rather than the athletic rivalry that permanently exists among universities.
“She’s a singles player and I’m more of a doubles player – and that was our third tournament playing together!” says Santamaria about the recent Wimbledon experience. “Our games gel really nicely as I’m pretty aggressive from the baseline and hone in from my net game. I can set my partner up at net!”
Harrison and Santamaria claimed the Monterrey Open doubles title together back in March. Coming up next for Santamaria are a few WTA tournaments being held in Hamburg, Germany and Warsaw, Poland.
“I generally like to read or explore the city with my friends, or enjoy local restaurants or watch Netflix," Santamaria says.
During her down time while at home or on the road, Sabrina enjoys spending time with her family, which includes a mini bull terrier named Harper. You can also catch her hiking with her pup, or spending time relaxing on the beach. Taking time to reset is a main focus for Santamaria.
“And just making sure I take breaks; knowing that there’s more to life than tennis and sometimes the perspective you need to have is very important,” says Santamaria of maintaining a work-life balance. “Just having a good group of people around me and keeping me balanced."