Stanford grad Kristie Ahn has seen a dramatic shift upward in her professional tennis career and it's all by design.
She's winning at every level by practicing with some of the best and brightest of young American players, establishing a good coaching situation with former professional Shenay Perry and setting a routine in Orlando with her peers.
"All the pieces started coming together," Ahn said after dropping a tough, 2-6, 7-5, 6-1, match to qualifier Veronica Cepede Royg in the first round of the Bank of the West Classic on Tuesday. "I surround myself with good people and we're always pushing each other."
There was a time in her career that Ahn could not afford having a coach on the road. It was like being a broke college student all over again.
Ahn returned to Stanford this week ranked a career-high 112 in singles. She reached her first WTA quarterfinal and has two victories on the ITF circuit this year, a singles title at the $60,000 Dothan and a doubles title at the $80,000 Indian Harbour Beach (with Notre Dame product Quinn Gleason).
Ahn will have at least one more match as she's scheduled to team with Stanford grad Nicole Gibbs in doubles play. Their first-round match is up in the air though, as original opponents Marina Erakovic and Ajla Tomljanovic, each retired from her singles match.
Tomljanovic retired with a right shoulder injury sustained at the Sacramento Challenger last week. CoCo Vandeweghe won the first set of their match Tuesday before Tomljanovic retired.
Stanford grad Carol Zhao and Cardinal sophomore Melissa Lord played doubles, losing to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Olga Savchuk, 6-3, 2-6, 10-6, in Tuesday's morning session.
Stanford incoming freshman Michaela Gordon and sophomore Emma Higuchi each played in the qualifying tournament.
"It's awesome to be here, this is what connects all of us," Ahn said of the reunion. "It's so cool. It's just a family."
As a 16-year-old, Ahn qualified to play in the 2008 U.S. Open, losing to then world No. 7 Dinara Safina. It was just the beginning of a beautiful relationship between Ahn and tennis.
"I want to focus on the U.S. Open so I might have to shuffle some tournaments around," Ahn said of her glut injury that slowed her down against Cepede Royg. "I get treatment every day. It's not an awful pain but it is hindering."
In other first-round matches Tuesday, qualifier Caroline Dolehide beat Japan's Naomi Osakam 6-4, 6-2, and American Alison Riske topped Poland's Magda Linette, 6-2, 6-4.
In doubles play, Dolehide and Kayla Day defeated Chia-Jung Chuang, 7-5, 6-3 and Madison Keys and Jennifer Brady downed Raquel Atawo and Hao-Ching Cham 4-6, 7-5, 10-6.