Australian Open junior champion Taylor Townsend of the United States didn't have medical clearance to play, which is why the USTA declined at first to send her to the U.S. Open, TENNIS.com has learned. Townsend was recently diagnosed with low iron, and the USTA did not feel it was safe for her to play until her doctors gave her the go-ahead.
Townsend had complained to the various publications, including the Wall Street Journal, that the USTA—which has been funding her entirely—declined to send her to play the junior U.S. Open because she was out of shape. She apparently received clearance on the Tuesday of the first week of the U.S. Open, but her mother Shelia had already bought their tickets to New York before the USTA had a chance to pay for them. The source added that USTA Player Development was happy that Townsend finally got the clearance to play, and would reimburse them for her travel.
Townsend's mother, Shelia, told the Wall Street Journal
that she and her daughter were surprised by the USTA's decision not to send her. "It all kind of came as a shock to us because Taylor has consistently done quite well," she said.
Townsend, 16, has fared well at the junior level, though she lost to fellow American junior Victoria Duval in qualifying at a Challenger tournament in Vancouver. The USTA then decided it was better for Townsend to return to USTA Player Development headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida, where she lives, to see why she wasn't feeling well and to train, rather than contesting the Girls' 18 Nationals. Duval won the Nationals and thereby earned a wild card into the main draw of the U.S. Open.
Townsend, the No. 1-ranked junior by the ITF, made it to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open junior tournament before falling to Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.
"Pretty much all the other federations, if they had a No. 1 junior in the world, they would kind of break their backs to bring them to whatever they needed to go to," Townsend told USA Today
. "I'm not going to sit here and say I'm the fastest person or the most agile, because I'm not. There's definitely room for improvement, but it's a personal opinion.
U.S. Player Development chief Patrick McEnroe told USA Today: “We're trying to make decisions that we think are in the best interest of the player. Do you think we're sitting around going how can we screw this up? How can we not do what's best for Taylor Townsend to progress as a player?" Our goal is for her long-term development. It has nothing to with weight, nothing to do with body type. It has to do with overall fitness, overall where her game is."