NCAA tennis: Cardinal rules

URBANA — Nicole Gibbs won’t be going for a threepeat.

At least not in collegiate tennis.

The Stanford junior reaffirmed after winning her second consecutive NCAA singles title Monday that she soon will be turning pro. Next stop: A Wimbledon qualifying tournament.

“I would say I had it in my mind as far back as last summer,” Gibbs said.

The chance to earn a team title lured Gibbs back this season, and she wasn’t disappointed as the No. 12 Cardinal captured the program’s 17th NCAA crown last week at Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex.

Then, on the final day of the tournament, the 13th-ranked Gibbs capped her college career with a 6-2, 6-4 victory against No. 11 Mary Weatherholt of Nebraska. With that, the Santa Monica, Calif., native became the sixth women’s player in the history of the NCAA tournament to win two singles titles and the fifth to do so consecutively.

“It’s amazing to join the very elite club of people who have won two titles, and honestly, I don’t feel deserving,” Gibbs said. “I’m just very, very happy with everything that’s happened these last two weeks.”

However, even the prospect of becoming the first player to win three NCAA singles titles apparently won’t be enough to lure Gibbs back for another collegiate season.

She also had considered turning pro last spring after winning her first NCAA singles title, but an abdominal injury last summer set her back. Gibbs also had some unfinished collegiate business, trying to add an NCAA team title to a resume that already included national singles and doubles crown.

But things did not come easy this season, at least by Gibbs’ lofty standards. Due to the abdominal injury, she played in merely a handful of matches last fall. And when she returned full time this spring, the 2012 ITA National Women’s Player of the Year at first was not the force she had been. In fact, Gibbs experienced a three-match losing streak that was as sobering as it was surprising.

“While it might not seem like crazy, a three-match losing streak for me was a pretty big blow to my confidence after winning the title last year,” she said.

Gibbs (24-4) wasn’t even among the highest-seeded players at this year’s national tournament, being grouped in the Nos. 9-16 range.

But as she’s proved so often throughout her Stanford career, May is Gibbs Time.

She won  all six of her singles matches in this NCAA tournament in straight sets and improved her career record in May to 30-1.

In the process, Gibbs prevented No. 11 Weatherholt from making some history of her own. The two-time Big Ten Athlete of the Year in her sport was attempting to become the first women’s tennis player from the conference to win an NCAA singles title. Instead, the Cornhuskers senior was dealt just her second loss of the season.

“I didn’t play my personal best, but part of that is she’s a good player and was putting some pressure on me,” said Weatherholt (30-2). “I missed a few too many balls and she came up with some good shots and good returns.”

In doubles:
Trojans triumph.
Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria of Southern California completed a sweep of collegiate tennis’ three major doubles titles with a 6-4, 6-3 victory against UCLA’s Robin Anderson and Skylar Morton.
Earlier this season, the second-seeded Trojans duo won the ITA/Riviera All-American and the ITA National Indoor crowns.
Santamaria and Christian finished with a 37-1 record.

Sections (3):Illini Sports, Sports, Tennis

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