Taylor Townsend recorded the biggest upset so far at this year’s US Open by knocking out Wimbledon champion Simona Halep 2-6 6-3 7-6(4). With so many expectations placed on Townsend early in her career, it’s sometimes hard to remember that she’s still a 23-year- old with a lot of time left in her tennis career.
Townsend had to earn her way into the draw, coming through qualifying which is something that might be helping her at the early stages of the tournament. Playing on the courts early and getting a feel for the conditions while winning three consecutive matches seems like an ideal way to prepare for the main draw. In the final round of qualifying, Townsend was down a set and 5-1 in the second set tiebreaker before coming back to win in three sets. It just goes to show how the slim the margins are between an early exit and a run that might be career-changing.
As little as Taylor Townsend has played in big events, Thursday’s match happened to be the fourth time she’s faced off against the Romanian. Townsend didn’t show any sign of nerves throughout the match until serving for the match up 5-4 in the third set when Halep broke back. But Townsend shrugged off that disappointment, showing how resilient she is and avoiding what would have been devastating loss. Her unorthodox game bothered Halep, as Townsend approached the net 106 times which is unheard of in today’s game.
It’s hard not to notice how similar her game is to fellow American Donald Young’s. Townsend happens to be coached by Donald Young Sr, who does a great job getting them to embrace the net and play an aggressive style of tennis. Up next, Townsend will face another Romanian Sorana Cirstea. Cirstea entered the tournament ranked 106 in the world and has played well so far this week defeating Katerina Siniakova and Aliona Bolsova, who had her breakthrough run at Roland Garros.
Regardless of what happens in that match, it is a good sign that Townsend is beginning to find success at tour-level. Townsend plays a limited schedule and doesn’t really travel outside the US except for the majors. She’s played a lot of ITF events over the past few years, mostly in the US, but she’s still been able to maintain a good enough ranking to get into Grand Slams. It is an interesting strategy considering that there have been many tour-level events she could’ve played but chose to play ITF’s instead. While we don’t see the benefits of it now, that might be something that helps her later in her career.
She turned pro at such a young age, so maybe the reasoning behind her scheduling has to do with not wanting to burn out early in her career. Donald Young who turned pro at 15, has had many ups and downs throughout his long career, so the team around Townsend might be opting to play it safe while she’s still in her early 20’s. On paper, it might look like a questionable decision, but I believe they know what’s best for her as she hopes to have long term success in the coming years.
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