College Tennis Alumni at the 2021 Australian Open – Part 4: Women’s Doubles

In this final installment of my mini-series, I will look at college tennis alumni, who have competed in the women’s doubles draw at the 2021 Australian Open. As was the case with the women’s singles overview, I am a bit out of my depth here: all of my college experience has been on the men’s side. I apologize in advance for any inaccuracies and omissions.

There were thirteen players in the women’s doubles draw with college experience, compared to five in the singles main draw. Three players competed in the main draw of both singles and doubles: Aliona Bolsova, Jennifer Brady, and Astra Sharma . For every player, I will point out one or two college achievements, followed by a couple of professional highlights. The list is once again ordered alphabetically by the last name.

Aliona Bolsova, Oklahoma State University/Florida Atlantic University

Jennifer Brady, UCLA

Hayley Carter, University of North Carolina

  • College: 7-time All-American, ACC all-time leader in women’s tennis singles victories (168), 2014 NCAA Team Finalists
  • Professional: Career high #31 WTA doubles, 2020 US Open Doubles Quarterfinalist

Carter had an impressive career as a Tar Heel, winning 294(!) matches in her four years in Chapel Hill (singles and doubles combined). What is equally impressive to me are her academic achievements: she was ACC’s Scholar Athlete of the Year in back-to-back years, as well as a Patterson Medal recipient, which is the most prestigious athletic honor awarded at the University of North Carolina.

Kaitlyn Christian, University of Southern California

  • College: 2012/2013 doubles “triple crown” winner: ITA All-American Doubles Champion, ITA National Indoor Doubles Champion, NCAA Doubles Champion
  • Professional: Career high #38 WTA doubles

Christian’s junior season at USC in 2012/13 was remarkable. With her teammate Sabrina Santamaria, they not only won the 2013 NCAA doubles championship, becoming the first pair in USC women’s tennis history to do so. They also won the two biggest individual events contested during the fall – the ITA All-American championships, and the ITA National Indoor championships. Not surprisingly, the pair finished the year ranked #1 in the ITA doubles rankings.

Alexa Guarachi, University of Alabama

  • College: 2013 NCAA Singles Semifinalist, 2013 NCAA Doubles Semifinalist, All-time leader in career singles wins at University of Alabama (109)
  • Professional: Career high #24 WTA doubles, 2020 French Open Doubles Finalist

Desirae Krawczyk, Arizona State University

  • College: 2016 Singles All-American
  • Professional: Career high #22 WTA doubles, 2020 French Open Doubles Finalist

Krawczyk was Guarachi’s partner in their run to the 2020 French Open doubles final, where they lost to the #2 overall seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic. Krawczyk and Guarachi were the #9 seeds at the 2021 Australian Open, and lost in the third round to the pair of Coco Gauff and Katie McNally.

Giuliana Olmos, University of Southern California

  • College: 2016 Singles All-American, Career high #11 ITA Singles, Career high #4 ITA Doubles
  • Professional: Career high #53 WTA doubles, 2021 Australian Open Doubles Quarterfinalist

Olmos is the second USC Trojan on this list. During her sophomore season at USC, Olmos actually paired with Kaitlyn Christian to claim the Pac-12 Doubles Championship crown. They didn’t compete together at the 2021 Australian Open though; Olmos’ partner was the Canadian Sharon Fichman, and the two lost in the quarterfinals to the eventual finalists Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic.

Ellen Perez, University of Georgia

  • College: 2-time Singles All-American, 3-time Doubles All-American
  • Professional: Career high #40 WTA doubles, 2019 US Open Doubles 3rd round

Perez played three years at the University of Georgia, earning the doubles All-American distinction all three years. She was also a singles All-American following her sophomore and junior campaigns. Following her sophomore year, Perez earned a wild card into the 2016 US Open by defeating Ashleigh Barty in the final of a wild card tournament organized by Tennis Australia. Barty was by then ranked around #300 WTA, but is the #1 ranked singles player in the world as of this writing.

Sabrina Santamaria, University of Southern California

  • College: 5-time All-American, 2013 NCAA Doubles Champion, 2013 Pac-12 Player of the Year
  • Professional: Career high #53 WTA doubles

Santamaria is the third and final USC Trojan on the list. During her career in Los Angeles, Santamaria won the 2013 NCAA doubles championship with her teammate Kaitlyn Christian. In the spring of her junior season, Santamaria suffered a serious ACL injury; yet despite that setback, she still won 96 singles matches for the Trojans in less than four years of competition.

Astra Sharma, Vanderbilt

Ena Shibahara, UCLA

  • College: 2-time Singles All-American, Career high #1 ITA Singles
  • Professional: Career high #15 WTA doubles, 2020 French Open & 2021 Australian Open Doubles Quarterfinalist

Shibahara spent two years at UCLA before turning pro, winning 67 singles matches for the Bruins in the process. In both her seasons at UCLA, she was named the Pac-12 Singles Player of the Year – only the second women’s tennis player in UCLA’s history to be a repeat winner of the award.

Luisa Stefani, Pepperdine

  • College: 3-time Singles All-American, 2016 NCAA Singles Semifinalist
  • Professional: Career high #30 WTA doubles, 2020 US Open Doubles Quarterfinalist

Stefani attended Pepperdine for three years and ranks #1 on the all-time Waves’ career winning percentage at .847. During her amateur career, Stefani was ranked as high as #2 on the ITA singles rankings, and #8 on the ITA doubles rankings. At the 2020 US Open, Stefani became the first Brazilian player to reach the quarterfinals in a women’s doubles Grand Slam event; her partner in New York was ex-UNC standout Hayley Carter, who is also on this list.

Belinda Woolcock, University of Florida

  • College: 2-time Singles All-American, 2017 NCAA Singles finalist, 2017 NCAA Team National Champions
  • Professional: Career high #207 WTA doubles

Woolcock’s collegiate career had just about a storybook ending. During her senior year, she played line #1 singles on a team that won the NCAA team national championship. Woolcock was also named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, and a few days later played for the NCAA singles title. Unfortunately, in her last match as a Gator, she lost to Michigan’s Brienne Minor. Woolcock and her partner Olivia Gadecki were granted a wild card into the 2021 Australian Open, and they won a round before losing their second match to the team of Leylah Fernandez and Heather Watson.

Is college tennis a pathway to the pro game? No doubt about it. We’ve seen college tennis alumni in both men’s and women’s main draw at the Australian Open, and an even stronger representation in the doubles draws. At the same time, the players, who have made a successful transition to the highest level of the pro game, have been some of the best players in college tennis during their time on campus. With the exception of maybe one or two players, all have been All-Americans, and most of them played on teams with legitimate national championship aspirations. That would be my takeaway from this exercise: if you are an aspiring junior player, and choose to go to college before turning pro, go to a nationally competitive program, and try to distinguish yourself by setting a goal of becoming an All-American. If you can achieve that, then not only will you leave a lasting legacy at your alma mater; you will also be well prepared to face the best players in our sport on the professional tour.

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