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“I’ve earned my way”: Taylor Townsend caps major milestone with poignant message
The American can take great personal satisfaction after a triumphant return from maternity leave saw her reach her first Grand Slam final at the US Open.
Published Sep 12, 2022
WATCH: Townsend guest-starred in an episode of No Limit during the 2022 US Open.
NEW YORK—Taylor Townsend made a statement return to the US Open after giving birth to her first child last year, roaring into her first Grand Slam final alongside 2021 finalist Caty McNally and coming within four points of defeating Career Golden Slam winners Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova on Sunday.
But it was her trophy ceremony remarks delivered in a sleek catsuit to Patrick McEnroe that had fans standing up to listen—particularly as they came exactly a decade after McEnroe, then General Manager of USTA Player Development, oversaw the decision not to award Townsend a wild card into the 2012 US Open in order to improve her fitness.
“I’ve earned my way to be here,” she told McEnroe, who was removed from the position in 2014, “and everyone can see that.”
Given Townsend’s openness about what she endured as the then-top-ranked junior, most vividly in a Player’s Tribune column published last June, this was hardly subtext.
“I meant what I said, I said what I meant,” she said in her post-match press conference. “I wasn't given anything. I really had to work my ass off to get here and to be able to play at this level. That's just point-blank, period.
“It gives me the confidence to be able to know I can be out here with anybody, to be able to do it so soon within a year, that just gives me so much more confidence to know like where I can go as I continue to build, as I continue to get more matches.”
I meant what I said, I said what I meant...I wasn't given anything. I really had to work my ass off to get here and to be able to play at this level. That's just point-blank, period. Taylor Townsend
Townsend was building plenty of momentum before the global pandemic, defeating Simona Halep en route to her first Grand Slam second week at the 2019 US Open. She left tour exactly a year later to prepare for son Adyn’s March delivery, but never waived from her determination to make it back on court—outlining a clear and detailed comeback plan that helped her return to action the following April.
By May, she had won her first ITF Pro Circuit title and partnered Madison Keys to reach the Roland Garros semifinals in women’s doubles.
“I try to plan stuff, but not like that far in advance, because with this sport, it's so difficult to because things change week to week. For me to have to plan out 12 to 18 months, I didn't know if anything was going to go according to plan, but I had to put something in place. Everything has gone according to plan, to be honest!
“It's very important to have that visual and just to know what you want. More so accepting the journey of, like, it might not happen the way that you thought, but as long as you are taking steps forward, that's all that matters. Some are steps and some are leaps, but at the end of the day, as long as you are going in the direction of your goal, that's all that matters.”
Already strong at analyzing the competition, the 26-year-old further honed those skills during her hiatus when she worked for Tennis Channel—a side hustle that kept her engaged with her colleagues and inspired her to come back better than ever.
“It gave me an opportunity to be a little bit more analytical, to see patterns of play and see what works for certain players and what they do and how they operate under pressure situations.
“I was like, ‘Okay, I'm going to try that,’ or, ‘I don't think I can do that.’ Just trying to be more open to adapt to see what the best players in the world are doing and see if I could do that and implement that in my game.”
That work paid off in Flushing Meadows, where she and McNally bumped off two seeds to reach the final and led Krejcikova and Siniakova by a set and 4-1 before finishing runner up, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.
“I'm not going to say that I expected to be out on that stage this quickly,” Townsend admitted. “I envisioned it. I saw it. But to actually see it in your mind and for it to come true are two different things.
“It's amazing to have my son to be here with me and to be able to challenge myself, to juggle that life of being a mom while playing in a Slam, like it was a challenge and I was a little bit nervous to kind of take that on, but it's been awesome, and I really enjoy myself out here.”
It didn't happen this time, but that doesn't mean that you stop. So just try to extract the lessons out of this and move on and kind of look at the bigger picture. Taylor Townsend
Having already overcome so much adversity in a relatively short career, full-circle success at her home major has only galvanized the all-court American to reclaim the career she always wanted. Already back in the Top 200 in singles and set to be Top 40 in doubles, the skies appear as blue as her catsuit.
“I know that's really just shown me that I can do it like anything, even if it feels impossible at the time, like I can do it,” she said. “That's kind of the space that I'm in right now. You know, I'm just super motivated to continue on and show my son, like, ‘We were so close,’ like, when you look back, you're so close.
“It didn't happen this time, but that doesn't mean that you stop. So just try to extract the lessons out of this and move on and kind of look at the bigger picture.”