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Townsend shatters stereotypes

Taylor Townsend                                                COURTESY PHOTO

Taylor Townsend

At 18 years old, Taylor Townsend, last week, became the youngest American to advance to the third round of the French Open since 2003.

Townsend, ranked 205th, opened a 6-4, 4-1 lead over France’s number one player. However, the powerful-hitting lefty, found herself in a decisive set after losing five straight games. Rebounding, Townsend built a 5-1 advantage in the third set before finally serving it out.

She was beaten 6-2, 6-2, by the 14th-seeded Spanish veteran Carla Suárez Navarro in the third round of Townsend’s debut Grand Slam tournament.

The Chicago native didn’t only make headlines for her outstanding athletic performances during her matches, but for her body image. She has been the subject of much discussion of how a tennis player should look, or their “fitness” — code, some say, for her weight.

In 2012, the girls’ U.S. Open refused to finance her travel expenses to the tournament “until she got in better shape.” She entered anyway and made the quarterfinals.

But “if Townsend looks like no other player, she doesn’t play like one either,” reads a Sports Illustrated article.

“She serves-and-volleys and charges the net and uses angles that never even occur to other colleagues. She is a tactician and thinker,” the article continued. “In the monoculture of baseline bashing, Townsend stands out like the independent bookstore… Is it possible her unique physique is ideal for her unique game?”

One of Townsend’s coaches, Kamau Murray, says Townsend would benefit at playing at a lower weight, to avoid injuries and to become quicker.

“She’s not in what anyone would consider world-class condition,” Murray told reporters. “But if you think she’s good now, you just wait.”

— Staff report


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