Saturday, August 31, 2019

Stanford grad Ahn advances to last 16 in U.S. Open

Kristie Ahn, playing in Berkeley, Calif., last month, had never won
a main-draw match in a Grand Slam tournament before this week.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Kristie Ahn jumped for joy, put her head in her hands, sobbed and covered her face with a towel.
   The 27-year-old Stanford graduate, who had never won a main-draw match in a Grand Slam tournament before this week, defeated 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 7-5 to reach the round of 16 in the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   "Obviously, it's always going to be a tough battle with her," Ahn, who also beat the top-seeded Ostapenko in the first round on clay in Bogota in April, said on "I'm just really proud of how I was able to stay mentally focused and not let nerves get the best of me. She's come back from pretty much every score possible probably, so I was really keen on getting the first match point done."
   Ahn, who lives a 30-minute drive from Flushing Meadows in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., had more tape on her body than a mummy during the match. Both her right (playing) arm and left knee were wrapped to protect hyperextensions.
   Ahn overcame a long history of injuries to win the clinching match in Stanford's 4-3 victory over Texas A&M in the 2013 NCAA final in Urbana, Ill.
   The 5-foot-5 (1.65-meter) Ahn became the first winner of the U.S. Open Wild Card Challenge to advance to the fourth round in the eight-year history of the competition. She is set to face 25th-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium on Monday. Mertens, 23, dispatched former top-10 player Andrea Petkovic of Germany 6-3, 6-3.
   Ahn, who has a long history of injuries, shocked Mertens, a semifinalist in the 2018 Australian Open, 6-3, 6-3 in the second round of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose last month as a qualifier in their only previous meeting. It was the first hard-court match after Wimbledon for Mertens, who had received a first-round bye in San Jose.
   Even if Ahn loses on Monday, she will crack the top 100 in the world for the first time, soaring from No. 141 to No. 93, and add $280,000 to her career earnings of $548,241.
   In an anticlimactic match, top-ranked Naomi Osaka, the defending champion, routed 15-year-old phenom Coco Gauff, a wild card from Delray Beach, Fla., 6-3, 6-0.
   No U.S. man reached the singles round of 16.
   Americans John Isner, seeded 14th, and unseeded Tennys Sandgren lost to 22nd-seeded Marin Cilic, who won the U.S. Open five years ago, and 20th-seeded Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, respectively. The 6-foot-10 (2.08-meter) Isner slugged 40 aces.


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