It is never easy playing a home town favourite. Just ask anyone who has to play Kim Clijsters anywhere in the world. Taylor Townsend qualified to play the French Open by virtue of a wild card. However, this was not just any old wild card where a tournament director or the USTA or some other Federation gifts it to you. She had to earn that wildcard by playing USTA designated tournaments in order to qualify. In her last qualifying match, she had to play both her semis and finals on the same day in both singles and doubles. She won them both.
Townsend is most famous for having her support pulled by the USTA because of fitness issues. It cased a media storm at the US Open a few years ago. Since then Townsend is being coached by former Fed Cup captain, Zina Garrison. Townsend’s style of play is a throwback to the era of serve and volley. She is a lefty with a huge serve and her ground game is spectacular.
I don’t often recognise when players shots are heavy but today while watching Townsend’s match against Alize Cornet I was struck by how heavy the balls were and how much they were driving Cornet off the baseline and back towards the back fence. Townsend played a really composed match. In her first round match against Vania King, Townsend came back from 5-1 down in the first set to take the set 7-5 and then reeled off 12 of the next 13 games. In addition to doing that she hit 52 winners. In her match today against Cornet, she hit 43 winners. What struck me though was her net game. On a clay court Townsend came to net 30 times and won 70% of the points when she got there. Remember folks this is an 18 year old making her Grand Slam debut against one of the fittest players on Tour.
Townsend did herself proud today with the way how she composed herself after being up a set and 4-1, she would lose the next 5 games to lose that set. In the third set she raced out to a 5-1 lead but was then pegged back to 5-4 after Cornet saved 4 match points. Townsend closed her mind and eventually served out the match to put herself into the third round.