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Pickleball Profiles: Kaitlyn Christian

by Erik Tice on

Kaitlyn Christian came onto the scene in a big way at the PPA Desert Ridge Open in early February.

If you are a tennis fan you probably know her name already.

Early Playing Career

Kaitlyn grew up in Orange, Calif., and played junior tennis starting at the age of seven. While neither of her parents played tennis, she became immediately enthralled with the sport. Christian worked her way through the junior tennis circuit before deciding to attend high school tennis at Orange Lutheran.

In 2010, during her senior year at OLU, Kaitlyn won the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) Individual Singles title. She also won the 2010 USTA Evelyn Houseman Sportsmanship Award, given to the best sportsperson in the Southern California area. Christian was inducted into the OLu Athletics Hall of Fame in 2023.

College Playing Career

Christian played her collegiate tennis at the University of Southern California while earning a degree in Sociology. She played all four years on the women’s tennis team, graduating in 2014. The highlight of her collegiate career came during Christian’s junior year, when she won the women’s doubles national championships with her partner, Sabrina Santamaria. 

Christian’s collegiate career statistics (Courtesy of USC Athletics):

Professional Tennis Career

As a professional, Christian excelled in women’s doubles events. In May of 2021, Christian and Santamaria won the Open de Santo-Malo in France on the WTA Tour. She also won a total of 13 doubles tournaments on the ITF tour throughout her career with various partners. In 2019, Christian was ranked as the 38th best women’s doubles player in the world. 

Movie Career

Christian played Emma Stone’s body double throughout the movie, The Battle of the Sexes. She had to work endlessly with Stone to help mimic movements and look as close to identical as possible. Christian said using the old wooden racquets from the 70’s helped her focus on hitting a better backhand slice and helped her find the sweet spot on her more modern racquets. In addition to that film, Kaitlyn also played Shaun Stafford, the first professional opponent of Venus Williams, in the movie King Richard. 

Pickleball Background

Christian is not a newcomer to pickleball. She has been playing on and off for the last decade, just not much professionally. She learned about the sport from her father and loved it right away. In 2018 she made a quick pro debut with some awesome results:

  • 2018 US Open Women’s Singles - Bronze Medal
  • 2018 Nationals Women’s Singles - Bronze Medal
  • 2018 Nationals Women’s Doubles with Maggie Remynse - Bronze Medal

Pickleball Training

On August 27th, 2023, in the middle of the “Tour Wars” the PPA Tour announced the signing of Christian. To be completely transparent, I have never followed professional tennis, so I immediately asked myself, “Who?!?”

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Then the PPA continued to sign high level tennis pros, most of whom had no pickleball background and I figured Christian was another one of those former tennis pros who wouldn’t put in much effort. After watching her results in The Masters, I was positively surprised. It was exciting to get to see Kaitlyn play in person at the PPA Desert Ridge Open. She completely proved me wrong on my incorrect assumption that she wouldn’t be putting in the work.

Christian’s results in singles spoke for themselves. She got a bronze medal with wins over Salome Devidze and Brooke Buckner. She lost to Anna Leigh Waters in the semifinals, 3-11, 6-11. On Sunday morning, she easily beat Lea Jansen – the No. 2 seed – in two games, 11-5, 11-2.

Here is the scary thing: Kaitlyn hasn’t been training in singles at all. 

Since singles came naturally from her tennis game, she has been focused mostly on her doubles game. Christian has been training with her friend Christine Trifunovic for the past few months in Rancho Cucamonga. The 32-year old is taking her professional pickleball career very seriously and training rigorously.

Plans in 2024

Kaitlyn plans on playing as much of the PPA Tour as much as possible this year. For the first few months of 2024, Kaitlyn is going to mix it up with partners to figure out what type of player she is looking for. Here are her upcoming tournaments and her pairings:

PPA Mesa

  • Women’s Singles
  • Women’s Doubles with Christine Trifunovic
  • Mixed Doubles with Sam Querrey

PPA USA Indoor Championships

  • Women’s Singles
  • Women’s Doubles with Rachel Summers

PPA Austin Showdown

  • Women’s Singles
  • Women’s Doubles with Genie Erokhina

PPA Virginia Beach

  • Women’s Singles
  • Women’s Doubles with Rachel Summers
  • Mixed Doubles with Travis Rettenmaier

Here are some partnerships that could potentially work well for Kaitlyn.

In mixed doubles, these pairings could potentially work well:

  • Travis Rettenmaier - already happening in Virginia Beach
  • Tyler Loong - good powerful lefty
  • Augie Ge - good powerful lefty and up and coming
  • Collin Johns - would be interesting having Johns on a team with her, as he is probably the smartest player in pickleball, and both players could play both sides 

In women’s doubles:

  • Leigh Waters - Who could be a better teacher of the game and solid right side partner?
  • Lea Jansen - Athletic and super smart and has the same type of competitiveness
  • Allyce Jones - Solid right side and always a positive partner
  • Tammy Emmrich - Really solid player who has gotten much better in the last year and a half

2024 Predictions

By the end of 2024, I believe Christian is going to be a top 3 female in singles and she will beat Anna Leigh Waters at least once throughout the year. In doubles, a lot of her success is going to come down to her work ethic and her partner choice.

Erik Tice

Erik Tice

Erik produces content for The Dink related to pro and collegiate pickleball. He is an avid watcher of pickleball and became passionate about the sport in early 2022.

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