Playing before family and friends, former USC All-American Maria Sanchez captured her first USTA Pro Circuit Challenger title with a three-set win over Michael Joyce-coached 18-year-old Jessica Pegula of Boca Raton, Fla., 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, in the $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger.
Sanchez is a rarity on the pro circuit having played all four years at USC. "My parents are both teachers," Sanchez told Northern California blogger Paul Bauman after the win. "Education has always been a priority and to still live a normal life instead of being focused on tennis. I always knew it was important for me and my brothers to get a college degree. I knew I was going to USC to get a degree and improve my tennis. It was great to be around my coaches and teammates there.
"I wanted to stay four more years, but unfortunately I had to leave," she added with a smile.
Sanchez has won six doubles title on the circuit but fell short of a sweep in the inaugural tournament at the Gold River Racquet Club. In the doubles final, second-seeded Asia Muhammad of Henderson, Nev., and Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove beat unseeded Kaitlyn Christian of Orange and Sanchez 6-3, 7-6 (4).