Taylor Townsend aiming to go all the way and finally fulfil promise

Taylor Townsend may be the most articulate player in tennis, certainly a poetic one, and she made the most eloquent statement about her rise from the depths by beating the Romanian Sorana Cirstea 7-5, 6-2, to join a bunch of interesting young Americans in the fourth round.

“I wouldn’t change anything,” said the world No 116, “because I appreciate so much where I am, because I know where I came from. And I think it’s easy for people to forget where they came from. I remember when I was grinding quallies at 25s [$25,000 tournaments], when I quit tennis for three days, that’s how long I lasted.

“But when my ranking went from 90 to 400 literally over the course of a day, I went from being main draw of slams to quallies and 25s. Losing. I went one year and I won four matches in a calendar year.”

She added: “It attests to the growth and the beauty of the sport having consistent people around for years, being able to track people’s progress, how they come through the sport,” she said of her own journey back from the outer edges of her sport after a long exile.

Andy Murray identified Townsend nine years ago as someone to watch when, at 18, she became the youngest player to reach the third round of the French Open, but she has since fallen off the radar over the years.

When she emulated her Roland Garros feat at her home tournament, the prize she clinched was a big-time showdown with one of the most exciting teenagers breaking through to the top of the game, Bianca Andreescu, who beat the former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-4, in an hour and a half on Arthur Ashe. Their clash on Monday will be a highlight of the second week.

“You get media attention from such a young age,” Townsend said, “like Coco [Gauff], 15, 14 years old, even 13, from getting to the finals of the junior US Open. You’re able to follow these players through so many years, and you never know when things are going to happen.

“You continue to work and you continue to kind of pluck away. Everyone’s journey is different. Some people’s happen quicker than others. Mine took, what? Six, seven years? I feel better than ever before.”

Ellen DeGeneres, Samuel L Jackson and Kobe Bryant were just some of the celebrities who took to Twitter to celebrate her long-awaited comeback.

“I lost my mind when the Kobe thing happened,” she said, “because I love him – just from an athletic point of view. I appreciate so much what he brought to the game of basketball, and athletics in general. And Ellen and all these… like, it’s insane. Being on a social media sabbatical like a few months ago to getting 10,000 followers overnight is weird.

“But honestly, I’m thankful for it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know it’s a part of the territory and I love it. I’m embracing it.”

So is the Canadian teenager Andreescu, who has had a taste of the tennis high life already.

A picture of precociousness, she has similar gifts of expression and made it plain after beating Wozniacki fairly handily in the end that she feels comfortable in this environment. And with good reason, having beaten all seven top-10 players she has come up against this year and rising to a career-high No15 in the world this month.

Both, however, retain a beguiling innocence. Andreescu, who does not lack for attitude on court, no matter the opponent, said of her debut on the biggest court in the sport, “I was, like, ‘Oh my God, is this actually happening right now?’ It’s a dream come true. I prepared myself really well. I handled my emotions well. I also felt the energy. This is why the US Open is so special. Hopefully I can play many more matches on the court.”

And when Andreescu bumped into Coco Gauff earlier in the day, they had the briefest of exchanges, as prodigies do. “That was actually the first time we met face to face,” Andreescu said. “I told her congrats on all the success. Keep killing it. NextGen is here.”

Wozniacki does not hand out compliments lightly but said of the player, who also beat her in January: “She’s had a great year. A lot of the players know who she is. She’s made a mark. She’s won two big tournaments this year. Obviously she’s playing well.”

She added, “The one that I can most compare her game to would probably be Kim Clijsters back in the day, because she moves well and she can stretch out and get to some balls and also play aggressive, using the angles. She prefers the forehand just like Kim. But she can move around the backhand and put the angle on it.”

The next wave are making noise with a vengeance, it seems. Also through against all expectations is the wildcard from, quite literally, around the corner, Kristie Ahn, who beat the 2017 French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko, 6-3, 7-5 in an hour and 48 minutes on Grandstand. She plays Elise Mertens, who comfortably beat Andrea Petkovic 6-3, 6-3 .


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