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Townsend sweats out win, advances to Wimbledon junior final

July 5, 2013 03:35 PM
Taylor Townsend is seeking her second Grand Slam junior singles title. She has won three junior doubles Slam crowns.
By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com

WIMBLEDON, England –
On an unusually hot day in London, Taylor Townsend sweated, strained but hung very tough and took down second seed Ana Konjuh, 2-6 7-6(4) 7-5, to move into the Wimbledon girls’ singles final.

It was standout performance by the 17-year-old, who survived a powerful onslaught by the talented 15-year-old Croatian in the first set and then pushed hard in the last two sets, playing steady when necessary and attacking any ball in her wheelhouse.
"The whole match after the tiebreaker was mental," Townsend said. "Being able to stay in it without giving out giving free games – she would have jumped on me like in first set. I had to stay solid the whole time. One of my strengths is how I compete and fight. I’m trying to get better and better at it."
The lefthander Townsend hit a number of forehand winners and frequently rushed the net – she was a respectable 21 of 40 at the cords – but it was her mental toughness that pulled her through. She served for the second set at 5-3 and was broken, but she still managed to maintain her composure in the tie-break.
Townsend and the Konjuh engaged in numerous hard-hitting rallies and long games in the third set, but it was the American who was able to come through on the big points.
On the last point of the contest, she crushed a forehand cross court, Konjuh stabbed up a lob and Townsend boomed an overhead winner. But it seemed like it took forever for the ball to come down out of the blue sky.
"I was like please, don't miss this ’cause in my mind I was thinking I could possibly shank it over the fence," Townsend said. "After I hit the overhead, I was like ‘OK, good job.’"
Townsend won the 2012 Australian Open girls’ title as well as the girls’ doubles titles at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open to finish as the 2012 year-end junior No. 1, but she is only playing in her third junior tournament of the season after spending much of the year competing in pro Challengers and trying to qualify for WTA main draw events.

She did receive a wild card into the main draw of Indian Wells in March and scored a win over Czech veteran Lucie Hradecka before losing to former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, but she hasn't hit the big time yet. Like many of the other juniors at Wimbledon, she’s not staying at a five-star hotel downtown but is being housed in the dorm rooms at nearby Roehampton University. She and fellow American Louisa Chirico, who reached the semifinals at this year’s junior Wimbledon, are sharing a room.
"It’s not the best, but it’s almost over so I’m not going to complain," Townsend said.
Townsend is a John McEnroe type who much prefers match play over practice. She is well-spoken, confident teenager who echoes the mindset of No. 1 Serena Williams when she enters tournaments: she always believes she has shot at the title. She thought so coming into the Wimbledon fortnight, too.
"I never going into tournament thinking I can’t win it," said Townsend, who is being coached by the USTA’s Jay Gooding on this trip to Europe. "I aim high and play to win, but I wanted to focus on each match and [on] doing the right things."
Townsend will play top seed Belinda Bencic on Switzerland in the final. Townsend knows Bencic well, as she fell to her, 9-7 in the third set, at Roland Garros and also in straight sets in Roehampton just prior to Wimbledon.
Bencic is coached by the mother of former No 1 Martina Hingis, Melanie Molitor and is a very smooth player with incredible anticipation.
"She’s tough and is playing very well," Townsend said. "She a different kind of player, hits flat and finds angles of the court really well and gets you off court very well. She fights hard and plays well when she’s down so I’m looking forward to the fight. She’s been on a roll so I have to play my best match."

Townsend isn’t worried about the possibility of having to play another marathon 24 hours after she bested Konjuh. She played two hours and 20 minutes to win her semifinal and is willing to play unit nightfall to win the final.

"I feel great and feel better than I thought I was going to," she said. "I’m looking forward to tomorrow, even if it has to be three and a half hours, I’ll be fine."

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For more Pro Tennis coverage, including coverage of Americans at the 2013 Wimbledon, go to the USTA.com Pro Tennis page
And click here for more on USTA Junior Competition.


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