Eighteen-year-old American Taylor Townsend is out of the French Open, after she was defeated today by Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro.
That wasn’t much of a surprise, but what is a surprise is how far Townsend went.
She was the youngest American to make it to the third round in more than 10 years. And she was only ranked 205. She’s African-American, a lefty — and there’s a back story about her weight that a lot of people are looking at.
Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated joined Here & Now’s Robin Young from the tournament to discuss the unlikely journey of Taylor Townsend. Not surprisingly, there was some disappointment there after her defeat, he said, but the enthusiasm over Townsend’s rising star is infectious.
“There was, indeed, a lot of excitement,” he said. “She plays like no one else, she looks like no one else, she’s very charming, and she basically just sort of lost to an adult today, an experienced player. She made a number of tactical errors, and her opponent didn’t give her much breathing room. But we’re gonna be seeing a lot more of her, especially at Wimbledon.”
Townsend also no doubt proved many of her detractors wrong today, who have criticized her for being full-figured. When she was 16 and the number-one female junior player in the country, the U.S. Tennis Association refused to fund her trip to the 2012 Girls Open unless she “got in better shape,” which was largely interpreted as lose weight.
“This is two years ago and we’re still talking about it,” Wertheim said. “Every athlete has their own playing weight. Does she look like Maria Sharapova? No, but she sure moves around the court just fine. I mean, when she lost today, it was not because of fitness or moving. She was not huffing and puffing.”
At the end of the day, Wertheim said, Townsend got the last laugh — and her future in tennis looks bright.
“She is delightful,” he said. “She is charming and well spoken, and she has addressed this issue very maturely and sensibly.”