It’s tough being an American tennis fan nowadays, especially when Serena and Venus Williams get knocked out in the first round. The men’s side has lost mainstays of the past decade like Andy Roddick and James Blake; the women’s side has young stars like Sloane Stephens, but no true challengers for a title outside of Serena.
So while you wait for the finals to be decided between European Dude/ette A and European Dude/ette B, meet Taylor Townsend, the 18-year-old from Chicago who should become your new favorite tennis player.
The French Open is Townsend’s first singles major. She’s ranked 205 in the world. But she upset fellow American Vania King in the first round, and then took out 20th ranked Alize Cornet of France in the second. For an 18-year-old, in her first major, to beat a Top-20 player in her home country is enormous. Here are the highlights:
Now, you probably noticed what most people have while watching Townsend play: her size. It can’t be ignored — she is markedly bigger than most women’s tennis players. According to Wikipedia, she weighs in at 170 pounds; Serena is built like a truck and weighs 155; Maria Sharapova is at 130; etc.
In fact, back in 2012, when Townsend was the number one ranked female junior tennis player in the world, the USTA refused to enter her in the U.S. Open junior’s tournament and cut her funding due to her weight. They wanted her to slim down, get in better shape. Her mother ended up fronting the money for her to go play, but this has been a talking point ever since.
Sure, Townsend may not have the prototypical body type. But have you seen her play? Watch that video again — she moves incredibly well, sports a deadly drop shot and can absolutely smash the ball on forehands. Here’s how coach Zina Garrison put it (via the New York Times):
“The biggest thing was just getting her to understand that she’s fine,” Garrison said. “Everybody doesn’t have the same shape of our bodies. She’s very clear on that now.”
“I challenge over half of these girls out here to do some of the stuff that she does,” Garrison said.
Townsend is the next big thing in women’s tennis. She’s reaching elite territory already and she’s only playing in her first major. We think people — including her own countrymen/ women — will stop underestimating her now that she’s proven her worth. Watch her play in the third round on Friday and find out for yourself.
Photo via Getty