Taylor Townsend (L.) and Gabrielle Andrews won the 2012 Australian Open girls' doubles title.
© Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com
MELBOURNE, Australia - Taylor Townsend and Gabby Andrews first met each other at a USTA high performance camp at the Home Depot Center when they were eight years old.
They were on the same team called the "Green Eyed Balls" and eventually teamed up at the Easter Bowl 14-and-under tournament. They became fast friends, even though they live on opposite coasts.
"Our friendship just grew and it helped when we got cell phones," Townsend said.
The two become fast friends off court, developed a coherent partnership on court and on Saturday, the cheery all-courters grabbed the Australian Open junior girls doubles title together, a very good win considering they are both only 15 years old.
"When I got into locker room. I was like 'What just happened?' 'It was like a dream come true," said Townsend, who lives and trains at the USTA Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla. "Winning the doubles topped it all off."
Townsend and Andrews have been in Australia since January 9, but it is not like this is their first time abroad. They have played in Spain, the Czech Republic, England and France. They were happy to play on Show Court 3 in Melbourne, except for the constantly descending seagulls.
"They were really close to the court and I don't like birds - anything that flys. I don't like ducks, not chickens, anything," said the Southern California-based Andrews with a laugh.
The left-handed Townsend had a busy day as she defeated fellow American Krista Hardebeck 7-6 (3), 6-4, in the girls' singles semifinals to earn herself a final round match up with Russia's Yulia Putinseva. Then she and Andrew had to pull the late night shift and took a dramatic 5-7, 7-5, 10-6 [super tiebreaker] win in one hour, 44 minutes over Irina Khromacheva and Danka Kovinic.
Townsend and Hardebeck played in front of USTA Chairman of the Board and President Jon Vegosen, general manager of USTA Player Development Patrick McEnroe, USTA coach Kathy Rinaldi, ESPN commentator and former US Open finalist Pam Shriver and 18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert under a hot sun.
No pressure there, but they didn't even notice
"In the first set I gave her a lot of return errors and that really killed me, so I stayed in points and fought to the end. She gave me a few points and I hit some good shots and I kept coming to the net," said Townsend, who had lost to Hardebeck in a warm-up tournament the week before the Australian Open. "There I got into rallies, bang-bang, and I wasn't going to win that way. Today I fought hard and the biggest thing was keeping myself pumped up."
Townsend and Andrews may be performing beyond their years on court, but off court they are two normal teenagers. They both raided the official Australian Open gift shop and they are rapidly running out of money a result. In fact, Andrews spent all of her Aussie dollars.
"I went nuts and I got two [stuffed] kangaroos, a bear, a baseball cap and a towel and I'm keeping (the towel from the match they won)," Townsend said.
Andrews added: "I got my mom a Roger Federer hat because she thinks that he's her boyfriend, and I bought my dad a tee shirt, and myself a towel too…"
The girls have yet to see any of the star pros in the locker room, but seeing the elite players in the US Open locker room wowed Townsend last September, and Andrews thought the Wimbledon locker room was also terrific. And she did have one star encounter - sort of. "It was king of weird seeing Maria Sharapova going into the shower and changing clothes and it iss like 'What! You are not supposed to be here.'"
Andrews, who is from Pomona, trains at the the USTA Training Center - West at the Home Depot Center in Carson Calif. (L.A. area) about once a week with coach and former Wimbledon semifinalist Lori McNeil. She also works with her father.
Andrew goes to a charter school, also does some online schooling and puts in about 15 hours of practice time per week plus fitness.
Townsend's schedule is more regimented in Boca: she works on her academic courses online, puts in two hours or so a day on court and does even more fitness. "It varies, but we always do cardio," she said.
At 1 p.m. on Saturday, Townsend will return to the courts again, but this time she will get a chance to play on Australia's center court, Rod Laver Arena. She fell to Putinseva in a long three-setter at the Eddie Herr tournament on clay in December but the power players believes she'll have more to say on hard courts.
"She's very tough and competitive and tries to get in your head a bit with her C'mons!, but I have to keep pressure on her and be aggressive," Townsend said.