Christina Fusano’s tennis career veers in new direction
Here’s some good trivia: which professional player from El Dorado County has played women’s tennis great Serena Williams several times?
Tough one? Here’s a clue. She prepped at Ponderosa High and faced Williams not that long ago at Sunrise Mall.
You don’t have to ask Christina Fusano this question because she’s the answer.
Playing the first five matches for the Sacramento Capitals, Fusano, 30, made her final doubles appearance against Williams, falling 4-5 in a tiebreaker after leading 4-3. With 450-plus professional matches to her credit, running into Williams in World Team Tennis play wasn’t unusual as many top-level pros sign up for the short summer season.
“If anything, it’s so much fun,” Fusano said. “I’ve played her and her sister (Venus) before and maybe I should be intimidated but I didn’t let that affect me. Even had we won I would never have said ‘I had a win over Serena’ because it’s a shortened format.”
Fusano, who has also played for the New York Sportimes, Delaware Smash and Boston Lobsters, enjoyed playing World Team Tennis, the brainchild of Billie Jean King.
“I was fortunate enough to meet her and pick her brain. She has incredible ideas that make tennis a lot more fun and attracts fans. It’s a month of intense tennis and a good change of pace from the tournaments,” Fusano said. “There’s no time to be nervous because you just have to play no matter where you are — the Sunrise parking lot or the U.S. Open,” Fusano said.
More trivia: Which former Bruin volleyball/basketball player went on to play in the U.S. Open?
Fusano did twice and she also played once at Wimbledon where she made the second round. Those were doubles matches and she hopes to return to the Open this year in mixed doubles — having already won one pre-qualifying tournament. Qualifying matches begin this week at the Open in New York.
Should she be successful, she’ll call it a career after eight professional seasons. She’s already accepted a coaching position on the UC Davis tennis team.
“The last few years have been a little up and down (professionally) so I think it’s time to start a new chapter in my life. I still love competition but I’ve put my time in and I’m ready to start something else,” Fusano said.
Tennis has taken Fusano down many roads since she picked the sport up at the young age of 7. Though she didn’t play for Ponderosa, she tore up the competitive amateur circuit between 1997-99 as the top-ranked junior in Northern California, 28th in the nation.
That led to a stellar four-year career at Cal Berkeley where she compiled records of 104-46 in singles and 99-43 in doubles. Known as one of the best counter-punchers at the college level and someone who knew how to win, Fusano teamed with Raquel Kops-Jones to win the Pac-10 Doubles Title as a junior.
That duo did even better in Fusano’s senior year when they paired up to go 37-10 and capture the NCAA Division I Doubles Championship.
“That was fun and it was awesome to win with Raquel. That was our goal all year so it wasn’t a huge surprise,” Fusano said. “To be honest, it would have been sweeter to win as a team but we lost in the semis to Stanford.”
Born in Sacramento, Fusano lived in El Dorado while attending Ponderosa. Her parents, Chris and Bettie Ann, now reside in Plymouth in Amador County. She has an older sister, Laurena, and an older brother, John, who is the men’s head basketball coach at Sierra College.
Fusano lends her expertise to various clinics and considerable time to Athletes for Hope where she talks to kids about sports, college and life.
“It’s important to give back,” Fusano said. “I’m fortunate to have had the past I’ve had. Tennis is such a great sport that builds character and I try to pass that message forward.”
Which brings us to the final trivia question: Which professional athlete from El Dorado County, prepped at Ponderosa, won an NCAA doubles championship for Cal, won a Pac-10 title, played in over 450 professional matches including against Serena Williams several times, has seven professional doubles titles to her credit, has won over six figures in prize money, stars on YouTube in a ‘Junk N Your Trunk’ video, is humble, giving and has her own Wikipedia file?
Hint: It’s Christina Fusano.