Taylor Townsend will make her Grand Slam main-draw debut at 2014 Roland Garros.
© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Taylor Townsend secured a wild card into the 2014 French Open by winning the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge and will be making her Grand Slam debut later this month in Paris. Townsend, an 18-year-old from Chicago, won consecutive $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit clay-court events – the Boyd Tinsley Clay Court Classic in Charlottesville, Va., and the Audi Melbourne Pro Tennis Classic in Indian Harbour Beach, Fla. – to earn 180 ranking points and the USTA's wild card.
Townsend, who turned pro at the start of 2013, is a former world junior No. 1 and a four-time junior Grand Slam champion. In 2012, she clinched the year-end ITF No. 1 junior ranking, becoming the first American girl to hold that position since Gretchen Rush in 1982. Also in 2012, she won the Australian Open junior singles and doubles titles, as well as the junior doubles titles at the US Open and Wimbledon.
Townsend, who is currently ranked a career-high No. 205 in the WTA rankings, recently participated in a conference call with media after earning the French Open wild card. Here are highlights from the call:
Q. What does it mean to you to be playing in your first Grand Slam knowing you earned the wild card rather than just being given the wild card?
Taylor Townsend: It's a great feeling for me. I think I'm going into this tournament really, really confident. I'm playing really well. It's just really good to know that I earned this. It was not like I was given it. It wasn't like someone just decided to give me a wild card. It was something that I earned with my sweat and hard work. It feels really good to know that. It gives me a lot of confidence in my match play and things I've been working on, so I'm excited.
Q. What is your schedule heading into Paris?
Taylor Townsend: I'm leaving next week, going to Strasbourg (France). Play that, probably qualifying. Then after that, I'm going to Paris as well, get some matches on the red clay. Get over there and get used to the time change and everything. I think that's important.
Q. When you look at the USTA Pro Circuit, how grateful are you to have this opportunity to stay in the States and hone your game, play these pro events, then have the chance for a wild card into a major because of it?
Taylor Townsend: I definitely think that the Pro Circuit is great. It's an opportunity for you to get a lot of matches, an opportunity to get points. It's great that we have it stateside. It makes it easier for us to be able to play in our home because there aren't that many [WTA] tournaments here anymore. It is important. I think having the wild card on the line, it makes it all the more competitive, not just with the Americans, but with the foreign people who come and play as well. ... So I think it's important. It drew great crowds and was fun.
Q. What has it been like working with Zina Garrison? What has she brought to your training and improvement in the last year or so?
Taylor Townsend: It's definitely been great. I've had a lot of fun working with Zina, as well as my other coach in Chicago, Kamau Murray. We've been working a lot on mental training. We've been working physically on the court. But a lot of mental training, understanding the game, understanding how to play the game. Basically that's it really. There wasn't that much tweaking we did with my strokes. There wasn't really anything we had to do there. It was more me getting an understanding for how to play the game.
Q. Could you talk about the process of the wild card, determining the winner on the USTA Pro Circuit through the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Challenge. Do you like the process?
Taylor Townsend: I liked it. I think that it is a great opportunity to not only increase the competitiveness in the 50K's, but it's a great opportunity for all the Americans to have a shot at something so big. I think it's very fair because whoever wins it earned it. It's not like you're given it. It's not just placed in the palm of your hand. You earned it with your sweat, hard work, the tournaments you played. I think it's a great process. I also think that it's great that we can have that reward at the end of those three tournaments. It's very rewarding to win tournaments, but to know we also get a wild card into the French Open is even more satisfying.
Q. Taylor, making your Grand Slam debut, do you have any goals set for yourself in Paris?
Taylor Townsend: I mean, as far as rounds are concerned, not really. I just think for me I want to embrace the moment, embrace every opportunity that comes my way, and just enjoy the moment. This is my first Grand Slam main draw. It's a lot to take in. It's an honor and a privilege just to be there. I don't want to just be happy to be there; I want to compete and do the best that I can. I think if I do the right things and everything, it will take care of itself.