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A Decade After U.S.T.A. Sidelined Her, Taylor Townsend Is Moving On

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Taylor Townsend is getting superb at moving on.

It is going on an increasing number of nowadays in tennis tournaments, including this 12 months’s Australian Open, where she’s going to play her second-round match Thursday after destroying Diane Parry, a promising French 20-year-old, in every possible way Tuesday. And he or she has moved on from the body-shaming and benching by the US Tennis Association a decade ago, when she was just 16 years old.

Townsend, a 26-year-old mother of a toddler, delivered a radical and merciless beating to Parry during a 67-minute, 6-1, 6-1 rout. Her powerful serve topped out at 116 miles per hour, and her lacing backhand painted the lines; Parry never discovered learn how to handle Townsend’s whipping forehand and will not reach the precise volleys. The win was her first within the predominant singles draw of a Grand Slam tournament in three years, and the primary since Townsend, ranked one hundred and thirty fifth on the planet, became a mother in March 2021.

“Taylor is a top-20 player who immediately just isn’t in the highest 20,” John Williams, Townsend’s coach, said moments after she finished off Parry together with her seventh ace. “In the event you’re that type of player, it is best to do top-20 things, like she did today.”

Townsend has been one of the best of one of the best before, on the junior level. But then she — and her still-developing teenage body — became an early flash point in the controversy about what top athletes are purported to appear to be, and the way much coaches should push their very own definitions of fitness on young women.

In 2012, Townsend, a star of the united statesT.A.’s then four-year-old development program, was the No. 1 junior player on the planet. That January, she was the ladies’ singles champion on the Australian Open. In July 2012, she won the ladies’ doubles title at Wimbledon with Eugenie Bouchard of Canada.

But just weeks later, as The Wall Street Journal revealed, after a loss in the primary round of qualifying at a lower-tier skilled event in Canada, coaches at the united statesT.A. decided the 16-year-old Townsend needed to work on her fitness. They requested her to drag out of the national girls championships and sent her back to their training center in Boca Raton, Fla.

They turned her down that August when she asked for a wild-card entry into the predominant draw of the U.S. Open, a spot she could have earned had she won the national girls title. They refused to cover her expenses to play within the U.S. Open girls tournament. She paid her own way, made the quarterfinals of the singles tournament and won the doubles.

Flash forward a decade, to last September. Townsend is standing at midcourt in Arthur Ashe Stadium on the U.S. Open, accepting the runner-up trophy in the ladies’s doubles tournament together with her partner, her fellow American Caty McNally.

The master of ceremonies for the trophy presentation is Patrick McEnroe. Ten years ago, he was the final manager of the united statesT.A.’s player development program, the guy who sent Townsend back to Boca Raton.

The 12 months’s first Grand Slam tennis tournament runs from Jan. 16 to Jan. 29 in Melbourne.

“I’ve put within the work, I’ve earned my option to be here, and I believe everyone sees that,” Townsend said that day, wearing a body suit with out a sponsor name in sight that has turn out to be her signature outfit of selection. “And I’m going to proceed to place my head down and grind, and that is going to motivate me to go even harder. So be careful for 2023.”

Townsend said Tuesday that, until it was identified to her, she was not aware of the moment’s awkwardness, her steely stare while on the rostrum and the seeming chill between her and McEnroe. What she said in that trophy presentation was about making one thing clear to herself and anyone listening.

“I’m coming,” she said, sitting on a couch in a lounge above a steamy Melbourne Park after her first-round win. “Every little thing that I’m working for, all the goals and the whole lot that I’m doing, is slowly aligning, and I don’t know when it should occur, but I’m coming, and to be ready and to be looking out because I do know within myself what I can do and I do know, that you just don’t know the timing. I think that things will occur.”

In a text message from Connecticut, where he’s working as a part of ESPN’s television coverage of the Australian Open, McEnroe said all he had ever wanted for Townsend was success at the best level. Asked whether his perspective on the fitness issue had modified, McEnroe said:

“I couldn’t be happier to see Taylor back on the courts, and continuing to do well. I even have all the time, and can all the time, proceed to wish her nothing but one of the best on and off the court.” That, he said, has all the time been his perspective on the problem.

Every tennis journey is exclusive. The game can seem to be a conveyor belt of prodigies who survive the gantlet of development programs and academies followed by years of dues-paying and ropes-learning within the hinterlands, and eventually the promised land of the professional tours and the Grand Slam tournaments. Each has its own bends and twists, setbacks and injuries.

Townsend’s, though, is as different as they arrive. A childhood in Chicago; the head of junior tennis and the birth of her pro profession as a teen in Florida, despite the body-shaming; then several years of struggling to determine what type of player she was throughout the first a part of her profession; a mother at 24; a stint as a television analyst during her maternity leave; an increase to the highest echelon of doubles; and now a slow and regular re-emergence as a singles player. Her goal, she said, is to be higher than she was before she left the game to have her baby.

She is getting closer. Last 12 months, Townsend won two tournaments on the International Tennis Federation level, the game’s third tier. She also made the round of 16 on the Silicon Valley Classic.

Williams said Townsend has achieved “clarity” within the last 12 months about who she is on the court. She is an all-court player with an enormous serve and a strong forehand that will be especially dangerous because it comes off her left hand and punishes right-handed backhands when she fires it across the court.

“The standard of her ball was hard to manage,” Parry said Tuesday.

Townsend was scheduled to play Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia within the second round on Thursday.

As a top doubles player — she and the American Asia Muhammad are seeded twelfth in Melbourne — Townsend can come forward when she must, as well. In every match, she desires to be the one to dictate the play.

“She got away from that for somewhat while,” said Williams, who first worked with Townsend in 2009.

Townsend represented the US on the Billie Jean King Cup last 12 months, having fun with the complete embrace of the united statesT.A. The organization has offered her and Williams whatever resources it will possibly provide to help in her continuing evolution.

Kathy Rinaldi, the national coach for ladies’s tennis at the united statesT.A., calls or texts Townsend in any case her matches. She has noticed Ola Malmqvist, the organization’s director of coaching, watching her play. Townsend said she has no hard feelings. She desired to take control of her narrative the identical way she tries to take control of matches, to make it mean what she wanted it to mean, and he or she did.

“We’re seeing people succeed who look totally different than the conventional, from all industries, from athletics, sports, entertainment, acting, the whole lot,” she said. “The proven fact that I could possibly be a component of that and to live it and simply to be an example for people, that’s the largest thing for me.”

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