Taylor Townsend, a 15-year-old tennis prodigy from Stockbridge, Ga., raises her trophy after winning the girls junior title Saturday at the Australian Open, giving hope to the future of American tennis, which is in major slump right now.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Fifteen-year-old Taylor Townsend wasn’t intimidated by playing the most important match of her young tennis career at 15,000-seat Rod Laver Arena on Saturday.
In fact, she took a souvenir so she could remember the experience.
“I was actually surprised that I saw four towels, like two towels on one seat, two towels on the other,” she said. “I was like, ‘Whoa, I’m gonna snag these.’ That’s exactly what I did.”
Townsend, a native of Stockbridge, Ga., took home a couple of trophies, as well.
She defeated Yulia Putintseva of Russia, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, on Saturday to win the girls’ singles event at the Australian Open, a day after she and partner Gabrielle Andrews of Pomona, Calif., won the girls’ doubles title.
When she closed out her singles’ victory, Townsend burst into tears on court.
“Tears of joy,” she said afterward. “It’s a dream come true for me, you know. A lot of people were supporting me, and my family and everything are just so proud. It was just a proud moment for me and … the feelings kind of rushed in.”
Townsend, who was discovered and initially coached by the parents of American player Donald Young, said she wouldn’t have made the trip Down Under if she hadn’t been confident she could win the title, even though she’s a couple of years younger than many of the other competitors.
“That’s a belief that I had in myself, but, I mean, definitely when I got through the quarterfinals, I was like, ‘You have three more matches and you can win this.’”
Townsend’s current coach, former top 10 player Kathy Rinaldi, said that she’s been training with her full-time in Florida and it’s sometimes been difficult for her to be away from home.
“I said, ‘It takes some sacrifices and it will pay off for you,’” Rinaldi said. “And she goes ‘I’m trusting you.’ And it paid off for her this week.”
In her down time in Melbourne this week, Townsend has been checking out some of the top pros on court. But she’s not that interested in watching the women play.
“I definitely watch the men more. I stayed up watching Federer-Nadal,” she said. “I honestly couldn’t believe the shots that Federer was hitting, and I couldn’t believe that Nadal was getting them back.”
U.S.A.'S BRYAN BROTHERS BEAT IN DOUBLES FINAL: Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek denied Bob and Mike Bryan their record 12th Grand Slam doubles title, beating the American twins, 7-6 (1), 6-2, in the final of the Australian Open on Saturday.
The 33-year-old Bryans were attempting to secure their place as the most decorated doubles team since the Open Era began in 1968. The Bryan brothers remain tied with the Australian duo of Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge with 11 major titles.
Obviously, it’s disappointing,” Bob Bryan said. “But you know, I thought we have had a great Australian swing, and we’re playing, at least I’m playing a lot better than I did last year already. It bodes well for the rest of the year.”
Bob Bryan has a special prize waiting for him at home. His wife was due to give birth to the couple’s first child on Saturday and he’s planning to catch a morning flight today back home to Miami to try to be there in time.
“I have something to look forward to going home, so my mind is going to get off the match a lot quicker than it usually would after a final like this,” he said.
Paes and Stepanek are veteran doubles players but were teaming up for just the fourth time. Before partnering for a tuneup event at Sydney earlier this month, the Indian and Czech duo hadn’t played together for nearly six years.
The Bryans have captured each major at least once, but they’ve been most dominant at Melbourne Park, where they’ve won four straight Australian titles and six overall. They hadn’t lost here since the quarterfinals in 2008.
444 AND COUNTING: Esther Vergeer knows she’ll probably lose a tennis match again someday. She just didn’t want it to happen this week at Melbourne Park.
The 30-year-old Dutchwoman defeated countrywoman Aniek Van Koot 6-0, 6-0 in just 47 minutes to win the women’s singles wheelchair event at the Australian Open on Saturday, keeping alive her astounding 444-match win streak.
It was Vergeer’s 20th Grand Slam singles title and ninth at the Australian Open, according to the International Tennis Federation. She also won the wheelchair doubles on Friday with her partner, 41-year-old Dutchwoman Sharon Walraven.
“I’ve already been telling myself I can lose any minute now because I know that some girls are a better player than me, maybe have better tennis skills than me, maybe have a better disability than me, maybe can put more pressure on the ball, but maybe don’t have the mental toughness or the experience,” Vergeer said after the match.
The last time Vergeer lost a singles match was in January 2003. Her opponents didn’t even get close to challenging her in Melbourne, either — Vergeer only lost four games in three matches.
Because she’s dominated wheelchair tennis for so long and won every accolade she possibly could — including five Paralympic gold medals — Vergeer is frequently asked how she stays motivated to continue competing.
Remarkably, she says she still sees room to improve her game. Plus, she takes seriously her position as a role model.
“This is just a great, awesome life that I’m living. It’s unbelievable that I’m able to play Grand Slams,” she said. “Even if you have a disability, there’s so much that you can still do and a lot of people. By tennis, or by playing sport, it’s possible for me to spread that word.”