When Taylor Townsend watches tennis these days, the former prodigy-turned new mom is on overdrive, synthesizing what’s in front of her for an audience of enthusiasts while absorbing all she can in anticipation of a thunderous comeback.
“I’ve been able to take myself out of being a player and thinking, ‘I would do this and this’,” she explained over the phone as the US Open unfolded, citing tactical masters like Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev. “Sometimes I’m looking at their footwork and how a player is moving, but recently I’ve been interested in patterns of play, what helps certain players win and be so good.
“It’s certain things like that where I ask myself, ‘How do they do that, and how can I implement that into my game?’ I obviously have to filter it for myself, what I do, and how I play, but it’s like you can learn something from everyone.”
Townsend has balanced dual roles of student and teacher this summer when she came aboard the Tennis Channel team to analyze the Western & Southern Open, a highlight of a maternity leave she plans to extend into early 2022. Having not played a tournament since the 2020 US Open, the 25-year-old has continued to train, but also thought about other, related interests. Many encouraged the talkative and insightful American to try commentary.
“A thought crossed my mind—and this is something I’ve been trying to apply in all aspects of my life: ‘If you don’t say anything, they won’t know,’” she said. “So, I decided to put myself out there and see what happens.”
Taking in the action from a studio desk, Townsend not only gained a new appreciation for the fast-paced world of live television, but came away from the experience that as a current—if presently on pause—player, hers was a unique perspective largely missing from the commentary space.
On her new job: “It’s crazy because there were matches on, and you could be recapping something you didn’t get to watch because they were on an outside court. You may only get a 20-second highlight clip and you need to figure out exactly what you want to say about that match without having seen it from start to finish. Once I loosened up and understood the rhythm, things got much better.”'