Ahn takes another step on her professional career path


Stanford grad Kristie Ahn spent a lot of time in the Taube Family Tennis Center honing her craft. She was back Monday playing here for the first time as a professional.

Ahn dropped a 6-2, 7-5 decision to 48th-ranked Coco Vandeweghe in the first round but it was a nice payday for her. Ahn earned $6,550 for her time, 5 1/2 times as much as she earned in her first two tournaments as a professional combined.

"I still haven't cashed in those checks," Ahn said. "After this tournament, when I do cash them in, it will finally sink in that this is my job for the next few years."

It was the second time Ahn played Vandeweghe, and the first in four years. She lost to Vandeweghe in the championship match at Carson in 2010.

"Home is home and it's always awesome to see the court get dressed up," Ahn said. "She (Vandeweghe) has a gi-normous serve but I think I did a little better job returning."

Vandeweghe, who won her first career WTA title this year in 'S-Hertigenbosen, The Netherlands in mid-June, advances to meet third-seeded Angelique Kerber.

"So far it's been a good year," Kerber said. "I'm having a consistent year and I'm still in the top 10. My goal is to stay there and play good matches. I'm focused on trying to improve and enjoy every moment."

Stanford sophomore Carol Zhao, who earned a spot in the main draw with two wins during the qualifying tournament, opens things Tuesday against Yanina Wickmeyer at 11 a.m.

Ahn, who won 51 of the 55 collegiate matches she played at Taube, won her first match as a professional before losing to former Cardinal teammate Nicole Gibbs in the second round at Carson. The next week she lost to Gibbs in the first round at Lexington.

"She's become a veteran on the circuit and she's one of my biggest supporters," Ahn said. "After I qualified for Lexington and before I knew I was playing her, we talked about how hard it is not to have a coach travel with you because of expenses. In college, you play a match and then get to work on things. Here, you lose, you go to the next tournament."

Ahn is no rookie to the WTA tour. She qualified for the main draw of the U.S. Open in 2008, winning three matches.

She's also appeared at the Bank of the West, either in the main draw or the qualifying tournament, five consecutive years.

The trip to New York capped a successful year for Ahn, who won two of the first three tournaments in which she played: at Landsville in May of 2008 and at Houston a month later. She's won three ITF titles overall, but none since Hammond in March of 2009.

"I don't want to brag, but when I was 15 and 16, it was a time American tennis was a question mark other than Serena and Venus," Ahn said. "Then I qualified for the U.S. Open and was the youngest player in the main draw. I was telling my parents that I just beat the NCAA champion and if that was what college was all about, why go? My parents were adamant that I absolutely had to go college."

Which turned out to be a great experience for her and the Cardinal.

After playing in three consecutive tournaments to start her pro career, Ahn has not yet decided on another tournament. Instead she's going to Florida to work on her game.

"I can go back and really attack my weaknesses," she said.

Ahn last reached a final was in Redding in September of 2012. She doesn't want to wait much longer for her next trip.

In other first-round singles matches, Karolina Pliskova beat Kimiko Date-Krumm, 6-1, 6-3; qualifier Naomi Osaka upset Samantha Stosur, 4-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5; Varvara Lepchenko topped Caroline Garcia, 6-4, 6-3; qualifier Sachia Vickery bested Shuai Zhang, 6-1, 6-2; and eighth-seeded Andrea Petkovic dropped Ajla Tomljanovic, 6-1, 6-4.

In first-round doubles Navarro and Garbine Muguruza swept Eva Hrdinova and Andreja Klepac, 6-4, 6-2 and Mijana Lucic-Baroni and Pliskova defeated Darija Jurak and Megan Moulton-Levy, 4-6, 6-4, 10-7.

Zhao and Ahn join forces for the doubles tournament and will meet Garcia and Zhang at 2 p.m. or later. The winner meets Muguruza and Suarez Navarro in the quarterfinals.

Pliskova meets top-seeded and world No. 1 Serena Williams in Wednesday's second round.

Williams is making her first appearance since defaulting during a women's doubles match, with her sister Venus, due to a viral infection that put her in bed for three days.

"I didn't realize how I felt until later," Williams said. "I didn't leave my bed for a few days. It's weird, when I saw it, I was 'is that me?' Venus was trying to get me off the court. I never know when to say when."

Lepchenko meets second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska next.

"All there is for me now is to just compete and take it from there," Radwanska said. "It's a build up for me. I need matches."

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