Thursday, September 24, 2020

Stanford grad Ahn draws Serena again in French Open

Stanford graduate Kristie Ahn will meet Serena
Williams in the first round for the second consecutive
Grand Slam tournament. 2019 photo by Paul Bauman
   Until Sept. 1, Kristie Ahn had never played Serena Williams.
   Now, the Americans will meet in a Grand Slam tournament for the second time within one month.
   Three weeks after Williams, a three-time winner of the now-defunct Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, defeated Ahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate, 7-5, 6-3 in the first round of the U.S. Open, they drew each other in the French Open.
   Williams, who will turn 39 on Saturday, is seeded sixth at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday. Ranked ninth, she seeks her fourth singles title in the French Open and record-tying 24th in a Grand Slam tournament. Williams has not reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros since falling to Garbine Muguruza in the 2016 final.
   Williams withdrew from last week's Italian Open with an Achilles tendon injury suffered during her three-set loss to Victoria Azarenka in the U.S. Open semifinals two weeks ago. Ahn, ranked No. 102, will play in the main draw of the French Open for the first time.
   The winner of the match could face the 10th-seeded Azarenka, the U.S. Open runner-up to Naomi Osaka, in the fourth round. Osaka withdrew from the French Open with a hamstring injury.
   Fresno, Calif., product Sloane Stephens, the 29th seed and 2018 French Open runner-up to Simona Halep, is scheduled to play Vitalia Diatchenko, a 30-year-old Russian ranked No. 115, for the first time. 
   Stephens is 3-10 this year with eight first-round losses in 10 tournaments. Ranked a career-high No. 3 in 2018, she has plunged to No. 34.
   Diatchenko reached the third round at Wimbledon in 2018 as a qualifier, ousting 2004 champion Maria Sharapova in the first round.
   Stephens or Diatchenko could play second-seeded Karolina Pliskova in the third round. Pliskova retired from Monday's Italian Open final against Halep with a left-thigh problem.
   CiCi Bellis, a 21-year-old San Francisco native who grew up down the peninsula in Atherton, is set to meet left-hander Bernarda Pera, a 25-year-old American born in Croatia, for the first time. 
   Bellis will play in the French Open for the first time since reaching the third round in 2017. She underwent three operations on her right wrist and one on her right elbow in 2018-19, 
   The survivor of the Bellis-Pera match likely will play 25th-seeded Amanda Anisimova, an American who advanced to last year's French Open semifinals at 17, in the second round. Anisimova won her first professional title in the 2017 Sacramento (Calif.) Challenger at 15.
   In the men's draw, Sam Querrey, a 32-year-old San Francisco native now based in Las Vegas, will take on 13th-seeded Andrey Rublev, 22, of Russia.
   Rublev, who reached his second U.S. Open quarterfinal this month, seeks his first main-draw victory at the French Open.
   Querrey, who became a father in February, is 0-3 since the ATP and WTA tours resumed in early August. He has never advanced past the third round at Roland Garros in 12 appearances.
   Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, drew a qualifier to be determined. McDonald reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2017 but underwent hamstring surgery in June 2019 and missed the rest of the season.
   McDonald or the qualifier will face either second-seeded Rafael Nadal, seeking his 13th French Open crown, or Belarus' Egor Gerasimov, a semifinalist in the $81,240 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger last year.
   Other intriguing first-round matchups in the French Open are:
   —No. 16 seed Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 champion and 2017 runner-up, versus Andy Murray, the 2016 runner-up, in a matchup of three-time Grand Slam singles winners rebounding from multiple surgeries.
   —Third-seeded Dominic Thiem, the runner-up to Nadal in the last two French Opens and reigning U.S. Open champion, against Marin Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open titlist.
   —Ninth-seeded Johanna Konta, a semifinalist last year at Roland Garros and the 2016 Bank of the West champion, versus 16-year-old Coco Gauff

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