CHARLESON, SC, USA - Kristie Ahn pulled off a stunning upset at the Volvo Car Open, knocking out former champion and 2011 US Open winner Samantha Stosur, 6-2, 6-4, to score one of the most significant victories of her career.
The 2014 Stanford University graduate said she felt inspired by NCAA champion Danielle Collins, who shocked Venus Williams en route to the Miami Open semifinal, and was eager to match the UVA grad on the court in Charleston.
"Danielle and I went to college all four years, and that can make a difference mentally, where you start thinking, 'What do I do now?'" shes said in an interview with Tennis Channel. "But I tried to channel my inner Collins today.
"I went in just trying to enjoy it Obviously Sam's a great competitor and great champion, so I had nothing to lose. I just wanted to stick to the game plan, and I think it worked pretty well."
Stosur has twice triumphed in Charleston, once in singles in 2010 and another time in doubles back in 2006, but was on the backfoot early as Ahn charged ahead a set and 4-0.
"She's one of the best clay‑courters on tour, and I tried to play aggressive and not let her dictate with her forehand because obviously she's one of the best at that as well," she explained in her post-match press conference. "So that was kind of my game plan going in was trying to stay in points and actually try and dictate points myself."
The American is in the midst of a solid season, earning her first Top 40 win at the Apia International Sydney over Carla Suárez Navarro, but admitted to feeling the pressure late in the match and credited coach, former World No.40 Shenay Perry, with helping her through the tough moments.
"I've known her since I was, like, 16, and she was still playing at the time. It was about two off seasons ago when Kathy Rinaldi called her in for a camp at USTA in Boca, and I was like, 'Oh, hey, how's it going?' We were kind of working together on the court, and she was only there for a week but she stayed for another and I was joking, like, 'Hey, want to be my coach?'
"Most of the time we would just work for a couple of days or a week at a time. I was traveling between Orlando and Boca, with the USTA moving to Orlando. She's traveled a couple of times already this year, so I'm really happy to have her here."
Striking 16 winners to 22 unforced errors, she kept Stosur from stepping into the court for much of the 78 minute match, limiting the Aussie to just eight winners while converting four of seven break points to serve out the upset.
Up next for Ahn will be another tough test in No.5 seed Julia Goerges.