Chicago teen Taylor Townsend bows out in third round of French Open
BY STEPHANIE STREMPLEWSKI Staff Reporter May 29, 2014 10:08PM
Taylor Townsend, of the U.S, reads a notebook during a break as she plays Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro during their third round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium, in Paris, France, Friday, May 30, 2014. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
Updated: July 1, 2014 6:44AM
Most 18-year-olds are recovering from prom and preparing for graduation, but Taylor Townsend is not your average teen — or athlete.
In her first appearance in a Grand Slam, Townsend, a wild-card entry, upset 20th-seeded Alize Cornet, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, in the second round of the French Open on Wednesday in Paris. She become the youngest American since 2003 to advance to the third round at Roland Garros.
On Friday, she lost 6-2, 6-2, to No. 14-seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain.
“These are the moments, these are the things, that any young professional athlete is working for,” the bubbly Townsend said after her victory.
The tennis world might be familiar with Townsend — a lefty who won the junior singles title in the 2012 Australian Open, was the junior singles runner-up at Wimbledon in ’13 and has been the top-ranked junior girls player in the world — but her hometown of Chicago is just getting to know her.
Born in Chicago to Gary and Sheila Townsend, Taylor grew up on the South Side in the Englewood and Chatham neighborhoods. Her mother played tennis matches into her eighth month of pregnancy.
A product of XS Tennis in Chicago, Townsend has been coached by former collegiate player Kamau Murray for the last seven years and was recently joined by XS Tennis’ director of junior development, Aaron Mabra.
“I started coaching her about two years ago,” Murray said. “I was in a different organization [USCA Midwest Section] when Kamau asked me if I was interested in joining XS Tennis.”
Mabra said that growing up in Englewood has contributed to Townsend’s mental toughness.
“She grew up on the South Side, and she had to deal with day-to-day life situations,” Mabra said. “She was really in the hole in the second match [dropping the second set to Cornet], but she had that composure and came back to win in the third.”
Townsend’s tenacity caught the eye of Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, who wrote on Twitter, “How good is Taylor Townsend! #Talent”.
When asked about her playing style Murray said, “I love the way she played tennis, basically. She’s just a really nice player to watch. She hits the ball great. She’s very talented. She volleys. You don’t see that much now, don’t really see it on the men’s or women’s tour at all.”
Murray later tweeted this about Townsend: “And she has a great smile! Gutsy win”.
That ever-present smile reflects her fun-loving outlook, Mabra said.
“She loves music,” he added. “She’s always telling me about new music.”
Despite the travel demands of tennis, Townsend remains focused on schoolwork. She is working online toward her high-school degree.
“Hopefully, she is working on her schoolwork right now,” Mabra said.