Kaitlyn Christian, or KK, is one of our inPhorm athletes that has had reason to celebrate after her recent Doubles Championship at the St. Malo Open. We were lucky enough to catch up with her after she landed in Paris for her first-round French Open match later this week – if you were ever curious about what the life of a professional athlete looks like, KK was able to give us a peek inside!
Q: Congratulations on your win at St. Malo! A couple of your matches at St. Malo went to a tiebreaker – how did you keep your nerves in check during those matches to ultimately come away with a win?
I think that when we have close matches in the first few rounds of a tournament, we tend to do better in the long run. Pulling out those tight matches gives us a lot of confidence moving forward, but the biggest keys are having a good attitude, enjoying the time together on the court, and staying positive between the two of us. Every time we step out on the court, our #1 goal is to have some fun and keep it positive.
Q: Throughout this clay court season, how have you and Santamaria been working to improve your game that ultimately resulted in your championship?
Clay is actually our least favorite surface, so to get our first title together on clay was really exciting. We had some pretty bad losses on clay previously, one being in Madrid the week before St. Malo. We met with our coach afterward and stressed that we felt that the clay wasn’t suiting our game styles, but that next week we trained hard together, having two sessions every day.
The biggest thing for us is having a good attitude – I’ll stress this many times – and embracing the clay even though it’s not our favorite surface and taking every day as it comes, which really helped us. A ton of hard work right before St. Malo definitely paid off.
Q: This clay court season, how has your strategy changed from past seasons to level up your game against some tough opponents?
It’s definitely more of a mindset change – if you don’t particularly enjoy a surface, you still have to go out every day and try to have a good time, shrugging things off if they’re not going your way. If we’re not sliding well or not getting to balls quick enough, the only thing we can do is keep working on those skills in practice. There’s no point in getting upset or angry in matches, which is why we ultimately get through by keeping it light and happy.
Q: You and Santamaria go way back to your college days at USC. How has playing on a team together previously helped your doubles game and your rapport in your matches now?
I think that does help a ton because the two of us have an established friendship and we know more about each other than what’s on the surface. If something is bothering her, I’m able to read her really well since we’re best friends off the court.
And that translates to getting through tight matches – we’re on each other’s side on the tennis court and in life. It’s refreshing to be able to travel the world, step on the court and do your job with your best friend every single day. It’s special that we’re able to do that and that we’ve been able to for the last 10 years now.
Q: Going into the French Open, how will you use your current momentum to leverage your game against new opponents?
Our first-round match is actually against an American and a Swiss player, one that we’ve never played before. But, we do see the same girls every week and know their games inside and out, so it’s ultimately about having a good feeling a few days before, having good practices, and going on the court with a clear mind, and excited to compete on such a big stage. Playing at a Grand Slam really excites us. Not many people get the opportunity to do that, so for us, it’s about enjoying these moments and savoring every bit.
Q: Before a match, how do you get yourself in the right mindset and be able to block out those unnecessary distractions? Are there any specific techniques you use that have proved to be useful over the years?
During the pandemic I started to do a lot of meditation. The week in St.Malo, we were right by the beach and we are all about getting in touch with nature. We would take ice baths in the ocean, do yoga on the beach, meditate, and spend as much time outside as possible.
Q: What would you say is your favorite surface to play on? And which slam is your favorite that you’ve played?
Grass is my favorite surface, which is a bit unexpected since I didn’t start playing on grass until three years ago. But my game is well suited for grass and am looking forward to that season.
The Australian Open is my favorite slam – the Australian Tennis Federation does a great job putting on the tournament, and my coach lives in Australia so I typically fly out a few weeks early to do preseason with her. The food is great, the weather is amazing, we’re right by the water, and the people are extremely nice – so really everything is good over there!
Q: I saw you recently joined the High Impact Athletes organization. Could you give a little background into what this organization does and what motivated you to join?
About a year and a half ago, I played World Team Tennis with ATP tennis player Marcus Daniell. During the pandemic, Marcus created High Impact Athletes, which puts us in touch with vetted charities so we know that the money we’re donating is going towards the correct cause – specifically for issues of extreme poverty and environmental impact.
He has a list of about 12 organizations that we can donate to, and it’s nice to have peace of mind that your money is going in the right direction. This year, I think I’m donating towards the Humane Society, which helps protect against animal abuse. It is unbelievable what Marcus has done; he’s got quite a following of several players from different sports, and it’s growing pretty well.
Q: What was it like to play Emma Stone’s body double in Battle of the Sexes – ultimately portraying Billie Jean King?
It was such a special opportunity, and within days of my college coach recommending me for the audition, I was flying out to shoot and was on the court with Billie Jean King herself. I had never met her before, so being able to spend a few hours on the court together was the coolest, and probably the most unbelievable, part of it all.
During the filming process, I also had the chance to meet a lot of neat people – Emma Stone, Steve Carrell – and see a different world than the tennis environment I live in. There’s actually another movie scheduled to come out later this year about Serena and Venus Williams that I got to be in as well – so keep the tennis movies coming!
Q: What has been the largest learning curve you’ve experienced playing on the tour thus far?
Definitely how to take losses. When playing in the Juniors, you’re typically winning a lot of tournaments and the win to loss ratio is pretty good in your favor. On the tour, you typically have one loss per week.
It’s important to learn how to get in the mindset of bouncing back and staying positive with yourself. I still do get down on myself at times, but surrounding myself with a good team and good people has helped. I also remind myself that since I’ve gotten to this level, I should enjoy it for as long as I can.
Q: It seems that there is always another tournament to play right around the corner. After St. Malo, how did you stop to take in the moment and celebrate your win?
St. Malo was one of the most beautiful cities that I visited, but since we’re in a bubble we don’t get to go out much. After we won, we had the chance to explore and spend time enjoying the city, including time on the beach. This is going to sound outrageous, but I was craving a hot dog after the match, so I set out in the city in search of one, which I found! So I had a hot dog and wine for dinner that night, and it was great.
Q: The pandemic has given everyone plenty of time to reflect on our normal routines and practices. How would you say your outlook on tennis has changed after being forced to take some time away from the court?
I was lucky enough to be in California throughout quarantine with access to tennis courts and fitness facilities. Unlike many others in different countries, I was able to stay quite active. However, the pandemic definitely changed my perspective on life in general.
Being fortunate enough to keep my job this past year when many people were not, lead me to have a new appreciation for my normal routine. Now I try to look at life by reminding myself not only how lucky I am to have my job, but also appreciate the fact that I am allowed to enter these countries when their borders are closed to the rest of the world.
Q: Besides your amazing tennis skills, do you have any hidden talents that your fans might not know about?
I am also a professional pickleball player! My dad got me into it a few years ago and put a court in our backyard, so whenever I have free time I enjoy playing.
BY : SYDNEY MUELLER