She’s a Rising Pro Tennis Star But Her Parents Want Her to Get a ‘Job’ Already
Kristie Ahn’s highly anticipated return at the U.S. Open ended on Monday, but the tennis pro has made it quite clear that she is not putting her racket away just yet, even with her parents begging her to send out her resume.
A native of New York, 27-year-old Ahn lost 11 years ago to Dinara Safina in the first round as a 758th-ranked 16-year-old.
Last week, Ahn found herself finally putting the 2008 U.S. Open to rest, as she emerged victorious against 2004 Russian champion Svetlana Kuznetsova — her first-ever win at a major tournament.
“It’s funny because she reached out to me [first] and was like, ‘Do you remember when we played? And I was like, ‘Do I remember? Do you remember?’” Ahn said after receiving a congratulatory message from Safina, according to the Guardian. “She followed me. My life has gone full circle.”
Unfortunately, Ahn’s run came to an end in round 16 on Monday after losing to Elise Mertens, 6-1 6-1 at Louis Armstrong Stadium, just two miles from her birthplace of Flushing Hospital.
Despite her defeat, Ahn absolutely has things to be proud of: she finally cracked the top 100 and has become the first Asian American to make the Grand Slam round of 16 since Lilia Osterloh in 2000.
“This is why I play: to hopefully reach out to those Asian Americans,” Ahn said, according to the New York Post. “We’re a small community, but a lot of our parents are immigrants so we feel the same way, had similar upbringings.”
Such upbringings include teaching the importance of securing a stable job, which Ahn has been told tirelessly through the years from her parents who immigrated from South Korea. Even with her recent milestones, Ahn continues to persuade her parents that there is more than one route to success.
Ahn attended Stanford, where she studied Science, Technology and Society, and became captain of the women’s team. Upon her graduation in 2014, however, she again expressed her intent to play, so her father offered to provide her financial assistance for three years.
“She said ‘Dad, you didn’t give me a dime for college tuition, so why don’t you support me for three years? I wanted to play tennis, that was my dream, and you cut it short,’” Don Ahn told the Times. “I was the person who said to go to college. We shook hands. That was the deal.”
However, by 2017, Ahn managed to sustain a career. Without needing her parents’ support, she moved back to their home in New Jersey, trained in Florida and even hired a local coach.
“When I’m done, I’m done, but I don’t want to have any regrets,” Ahn told the Times. “I want to make sure that I’m maximizing my potential, that I’m going out there and having fun.”
“The way I look at professional tennis is you have such a unique platform to reach kids, to reach other people. People will actually want to listen to you, and they’ll put you on a pedestal,” she added.
“While I’m doing this, I want to make as much of a difference as I can. And when I’m done, I can sell my soul to the corporate world.”
Still, her parents remain convinced that a corporate job is a ticket to a happier life.
“If you get injured, you’ve got nothing,” Don Ahn said. “There’s no unemployment compensation. You just get hungry, and without money.”
“People don’t understand us around here,” her mother, Fay Ahn, told the Times. “Everyone is saying ‘Why, why?’ But I just want her to live a normal life. Even if she makes some money, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s about having a steady job, having a family. And then she can enjoy tennis the rest of her life.”
Ahn’s professional tennis career seems far from over. Serena Williams, whom Ahn had shared some locker space with are only beginning to notice her.
“She said, ‘Kristie Ahn.’ I spun around. I’m like, ‘She knows who I am!’” Ahn recalled, according to the NY Post. “I’m always going to be star struck from seeing her. [But] definitely this gives the confidence that no matter who I step out on court with I can believe in myself. The belief is finally starting to come together finally.”