By Arlyn Gajilan
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Belgium’s Elise Mertens put American wildcard Kristie Ahn’s U.S. Open run to an abrupt end on Monday, defeating her soundly 6-1 6-1 to reach the quarter-finals.
Ahn may not have gotten as much attention as fellow Americans Coco Gauff or Taylor Townsend at Flushing Meadows but she walked into Louis Armstrong Stadium with major momentum.
The 27-year-old former Stanford University player had beaten Mertens in San Jose a little over month ago and reached the fourth round without dropping a set, becoming the first Asian American woman to make the round of 16 since 2000.
But Mertens, seeded 25th, was too consistent, keeping her unforced error count low and winning 79% of points on first serve.
Mertens will face the winner of the late match between American Taylor Townsend and Canada’s Bianca Andreescu.
“She played really smart and made adjustments since San Jose,” said Ahn, who had never won a main draw match at her three previous Grand Slam appearances.
“She didn’t allow me to see the same ball twice.”
Ahn’s former Stanford coach Lele Forood felt there was plenty of up-side for the late-bloomer going forward.
“One of the benefits of having a great slam is the income that comes out of it,” Forood, who continues to counsel Ahn via text, told Reuters.
“The financial pressure is off for a little while and now she’ll be eligible for more tour level events.”
Ahn’s $280,000 cheque for reaching the round of 16 is nearly double her $143,000 in prizemoney earned earlier this year.
The 141st-ranked Ahn will also break into the top 100, making her eligible for more WTA events.
“In 2017 I would have thrown a party,” said Ahn of cracking the top 100.
Now, she added: “I want more.”
(Reporting by Arlyn Gajilan; Editing by Ian Ransom)