Lauren Embree (l) and Julia Elbaba following the ITA women's final.
© Allen Weiss
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. - The 2012 Riviera/ITA Women's All-American Championships, hosted by the Riviera Tennis Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., wrapped up on Sunday with a pair of tremendous finals. Florida senior Lauren Embree claimed the singles title by taking down Cavalier freshman Julia Elbaba in a match that nearly lasted three hours, while top seeds Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria of USC also needed three sets to emerge victorious over Duke's Beatrice Capra and Hanna Mar in the doubles final.
Much like her semifinal match on Saturday, Elbaba raced out to a big lead in the first set. After nearly letting the lead slip away against Zoe Scandalis less than 24 hours before, Elbaba was quick to close out the opening set against Embree 6-2, leaving her just one set away from her first national championship in her brief collegiate career. However, the steady Gator veteran would not allow Elbaba to steamroll through the finals, playing her consistent brand of tennis in the second set to force the rookie to earn points by hitting winners. Elbaba could not find the range often enough in the second set, failing to recover from falling behing an early break, as Embree took the second set 6-3 to force a decisive third.
Elbaba's fitness could have come into question in the final set, considering this was her 11th match in nine days, but with Elbaba controlling a majority of the rallies, the third set was more of a test of how well the freshman would be able to control her nerves. Twice the Cavalier held a break advantage, including serving with a 4-2 lead, but she committed several unforced errors to give the break back each time. Meanwhile, Embree was retrieving almost every shot off of Elbaba's racquet, resulting in Elbaba often going for too big of a shot early in the rally. Embree finally edged ahead for the first time in the set with a break advantage at 5-4, and having been in a number of pressure situations in her four years at Florida, she was able to serve it out to keep the trophy in Gainesville. Last season, former Gator teammate Allie Will claimed the singles title at the Riviera/ITA Women's All-American Championships.
Following the singles final was an intriguing matchup in the doubles championship match between Christian/Santamaria and Capra/Mar. The Women of Troy had yet to be tested throughout the week, and after quickly cruising through the first set 6-2, it appeared they would easily collect their second national title in two years, also winning the 2011 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championshp last November in their first season playing together.
Capra and Mar, a new tandem for the Blue Devils this season and ranked in the top 20 of the Campbell/ITA Preseason Women's Doubles Rankings, were able to hang in the back-and-forth second set with the top seeds. Both teams seemingly had momentum on more than one occasion, but neither could manage to hang on to it for long. The set was eventually pushed to a tiebreak, and after Capra and Mar let a 4-2 lead slip away, the Duke pair claimed the tiebreak nine points to seven to send the match to a third set.
In that decisive set, all four players seemed a little shaky in the first few games, but it was Christian and Santamaria showing why they are ranked No. 1 in the Campbell/ITA Preseason Women's Doubles Rankings. They surged ahead with a 4-2 advantage over Capra and Mar, who were unable to make one final charge to get back in the match. Christian and Santamaria won the match going away, 6-3 in the third set, for another national championship crown.
The day began with the consolation doubles championship, as Pepperdine's Khunpak Issara and Lorraine Guillermo were up against Embree and freshman Danielle Collins. Though a consolation match, a place in the doubles draw of the 2012 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships was on the line. A hot start by Issara and Guillermo was too much for the Gators to overcome, and the Waves rolled to the 8-3 victory to take the consolation title.
For complete coverage of the 2012 Riviera/ITA Women's All-American Championships, including access to completed draws, please visit ITAtennis.com. Follow the ITA on Twitter, @ITAtennis, for updates and news.