Sixteen-year-old American Taylor Townsend, who won her first WTA main draw match with a 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-3 victory over Lucie Hradecka in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, says she might crack in the face of a Serena Williams stare down, but would love to face the 15-time Grand Slam champion.
“I don't know how nervous I would be,” Townsend told a small group of U.S. reporters. “I would probably be very nervous. Hopefully she doesn't give me that death stare because I wouldn't know what I would do [laughs]. I would love to play her. I think it'll be fun.”
The former world junior No. 1, who is now a pro, says she has been motivated by the success of fellow American teenagers Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens, who upset Williams in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. All of them train with USTA Player Development coaches. After working with coach Kathy Rinaldi for the past three years, Townsend is now being coached by Juan Todero, who also coaches Keys.
“It’s such a big inspiration for me to have them to look up to especially because they are not much older than me,” said Townsend of the 18-year-old Keys and 19-year-old Stephens. “Especially Sloane because of the hard work and she believes in herself and she's confident. It shows what you can do, and age doesn't really matter. I stayed up and watched her match vs. Serena and it was so empowering for me and I'm saying if she can do it, I can do it, too.”
Townsend said she has put the issue with the USTA during the 2012 U.S. Open behind her. Townsend needed medical clearance to play the junior U.S. Open, which is why the USTA declined to send her to New York early, but she complained to various publications that they declined to send her because she was out of shape.
“It wasn't a set-back for me,” she said on Thursday. “I was glad to play at the Open and that was really good motivation for me in the pre-season to work as hard as I could to get in the best shape I could possibly be in, so that if I got opportunities such as these, I could perform at my highest level and at my peak.”