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National

Throwback: Kristie Ahn makes history

Victoria Chiesa | May 20, 2021

May is Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. To celebrate, USTA.com is taking a look at Asian-Americans past, present and future—those who have helped to shape the game, and those who could soon cement their place in it.

 

At the 2019 US Open, Kristie Ahn came full-circle, and made recent history in the process.

 

As a wild card, Ahn reached the fourth round of the US Open for her best-ever career Grand Slam result. The winner of the USTA's US Open Wild Card Challenge that summer, Ahn became the first Challenge-winner, male or female, to get that far in an Open draw. Established in 2012, the Challenge historically awarded a spot in the US Open main draw to the American who accumulates the most points at select summer hard-court events.

 

The run marked the end of a long road back for Ahn, a former All-American at Stanford University: the 2019 US Open was her first main-draw appearance in Flushing Meadows since 2008, when she was a 16-year-old qualifier, and the result helped bring her to a career-high ranking inside the Top 100.

 

Here's more on the Tri-State Area native.

The Kristie Ahn File

Age: 28

Birthplace: Flushing, N.Y.

Current Rank: No. 123

Career-High Rank: No. 87 (September 2019)

Best US Open Finish: Round 4 (2019)

 

The Baseline

 

- Born in New York and raised in New Jersey, Ahn first came to attention as a 16-year-old qualifier in 2008, giving Dinara Safina a tough match inside the old Louis Armstrong Stadium. She passed up accepting her first-round prize money to maintain her NCAA eligibility, and went on to be a four-year member of the Stanford Cardinal from 2010-14. 

- At Stanford, Ahn was a three-time All-American and earned plenty of individual accolades despite battling ankle, neck and foot injuries as a collegian. She scored the clinching point in the Cardinal’s 2013 NCAA championship victory over Texas A&M, and st the close of her first season of 2010-111, she was named the ITA National Rookie of the Year and Pac-10 (now Pac-12) Freshman of the Year.

- After losing in US Open qualifying four times following her 2008 debut, Ahn's main-draw return in 2019 saw her beat a pair of Grand Slam champions in Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jelena Ostapenko along the way before she was stopped in the Round of 16 by Elise Mertens. "My life has come full circle. I feel like I can finally put the 2008 US Open to rest. May it rest in peace," she joked at the time.

- Her run at the US Open also made her the first Asian-American woman to make the Round of 16 at a Grand Slam tournament since Lilia Osterloh accomplished the feat in 2000.

- Ahn's career-best 2019 season also saw her reach the quarterfinals in San Jose and Seoul, and qualify for Wimbledon for the first time. The effort allowed her to reach a career-high ranking, end the season in the Top 100 for the first time.

They Said it!

"This is why I play, to hopefully be able to reach out to... Asian-Americans. We're a pretty small community, but I think a lot of our parents are immigrants, so we kind of all feel the same way, had similar upbringings. To be able to do this, what others haven't been able to do, haven't been able to do for a long time, it's kind of like putting us back on the map. You can strive, you can have both, you can have the education, keep your parents happy, but also be able to have your own ambitions and go for it." - Ahn on matching Osterloh's achievement

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