Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee: Kaitlyn Christian '10
It was by chance that Orange Lutheran alumna Kaitlyn Christian picked up a tennis racquet.
As a seven-year old, Christian often walked by the local tennis courts to get to the field where she played youth soccer. At the suggestion of her father, she decided to give tennis a try, and she found an instant connection with the sport.
While at Orange Lutheran, Christian was the 2009 CIF-SS Individual Singles Champion. She went on to USC to become the 2013 NCAA Doubles Champion, and today, she is a professional tennis player in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).
Currently a doubles player on the WTA Tour, Christian has played in every Grand Slam Tournament – the Australian Open, the French Open, the US Open and Wimbledon. In recognition of her achievements as a Lancer and in the sport of tennis, she will be honored this summer as one of 11 inductees in the Orange Lutheran Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2023.
Despite neither of her parents having played the sport, Christian immediately took to tennis. It wasn’t long before she began playing in junior tournaments, and by the age of 12, she started seeing strong results in her play, which led to aspirations of competing professionally.
As she became more committed to tennis, it was important to Christian that she attend a high school that was strong in academics but also allowed her the flexibility she needed for her athletic pursuits. She and her family chose OLu, and the administration and staff supported her needs by offering a blended schedule – a mix of on campus and online classes – that provided her the time she needed to maintain her training regimen.
“The reputation of the school was not only for the athletics, but also for the education,” said Christian. “They said they knew that tennis was very important to me…and that I wanted to set a really good training foundation for what I wanted to accomplish in the future. I always had tutors that helped me, and they gave me the leniency to do what I wanted to do as an athlete, as well maintain a very high level of education. I'm very thankful to them that they allowed me to do that because not many schools would have accommodated my dreams like that. I'm really happy with my choice.”
During her time at OLu, Christian competed for the girls tennis team and saw a progressive amount of success each season. Her sophomore year she advanced to the CIF Individual Singles semi-finals. As a junior, she earned a spot in the CIF Individual Singles finals. And it was her senior season in 2009 where she took the CIF Individual Singles title. It was her first experience playing tennis as part of a team, and the four-year varsity Lancer had a ton of fun.
“I really enjoyed my time there,” said Christian of her years at OLu. “It was fun to be a part of a team, and at that time we had a group of really, really nice girls. I'd say the thing that stood out the most to me was just having such a nice group of girls surrounding me and just to be able to compete with them. High school tennis is a lot of fun, and it’s a lot less pressure-filled than competing in junior tournaments or in college. So I really enjoyed that aspect.”
Christian’s introduction to the sport was as a singles player, but as an older teen, she began to play more doubles matches and has found a fit in the doubles game. While she was heavily recruited by several college tennis programs, she had her heart set on USC, citing a strong connection with the coaching staff and the Trojan community. She felt her time at OLu was significant in preparing her to take her next steps collegiately and beyond.
“Academics at OLu are so high, and they were very trusting towards me as I learned how to take on tutors and help myself when I was on the road,” said Christian. “For the tennis part, just being around a team setting for the first time really helped because tennis is very individual, and a lot of girls get thrown into team settings and it doesn't suit them very well. It was a great group of girls there, and it would have been impossible to not get along with them. And at OLu we did a lot of [weightlifting and fitness agility], and that opened my mind to some of that stuff. It all helped me with my transition quite a bit.”
Christian’s strong collegiate play continued to bring her more accolades and opportunities in the sport. She and her USC doubles teammate, Sabrina Santamaria, were the 2013 NCAA Doubles Champions, and the win granted the pair a wildcard into their first U.S. Open main draw. It was then that Christian began to see a future as a professional tennis player come into focus.
After graduating with a degree in sociology in 2014, Christian immediately joined the WTA Tour and began traveling all over the world to play in tournaments. She initially competed as a singles players but saw higher rankings as a doubles player, so she made the permanent switch.
Today, she holds a WTA doubles ranking of 86 with a career high ranking of 38, which she reached in February 2019. She has competed in each of the four Grand Slam tournaments, including playing mixed doubles at Wimbledon, goals of hers since the beginning of her professional career. Her most recent tournament victory was the Guanajuato Open in Irapuato, Mexico, in February 2022.
With a competition calendar that lasts 10 months a year, Christian has been busy the last decade traveling the world and improving her skills on the court. In her global travels, she has found Australia to be a favorite destination, and when she’s not competing, she considers nearby Rancho Cucamonga where her parents currently reside as her home base.
While it is a demanding schedule, Christian feels she lives “a pretty awesome life.” She still has a strong love for tennis and will play until she feels “it’s the right time to stop.” But for now, she will continue to compete while traveling to new places, trying different cuisines and meeting new people.
Christian reflects back on her time at OLu with great pride and is grateful for how the Lancer family welcomed her with open arms and was willing to work with her to help her achieve her goals. Her induction into the Orange Lutheran Athletics Hall of Fame is a culmination of both her outstanding achievement as an athlete and the mutual respect she shared with the school.
“My time there was very, very special, and it laid a lot of very important foundation blocks for who I am as a person now and how my career really progressed,” said Christian of being a Lancer. “It means the world to me, and I'm so happy. It's really special.”