Chicago teenager makes splash at French Open

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PARIS (AP) — Chicago teenager Taylor Townsend made quite a splash on the red clay at the French Open, and she enjoyed it so much she’s ready for next year.

She says the crowds were supportive and she “had a great time playing in front of them.”

Townsend was speaking Friday after a 6-2, 6-2 loss to Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain.

The 18-year-old from Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood says she realized she likes “playing in front of a lot of people” on the big stage.

Townsend reached the third round at Roland Garros, quite an accomplishment in her Grand Slam debut.

She also earned some new fans with her aggressive play, including Andy Murray.

The Wimbledon champion said Townsend is “a really nice player to watch” and “hits the ball great.”

 

France Tennis French Open

Taylor Townsend, of the U.S, reacts as she plays Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro during their third round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium, in Paris, France, Friday, May 30, 2014. (AP Photo/David Vincent)

For all the problems facing Townsend on Wednesday, she always had her notebook to offer comfort and counsel.

So along the way to beating 20th-seeded Alize Cornet of France 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to reach the third round, the 205th-ranked Townsend sat at changeovers and read what she’d written during practices. Those jottings were useful when Townsend was losing five games in a row to blow a 4-1 lead in the second set, or letting most of a 5-1 edge slip away in the third, or dealing with the wildly partisan crowd.

“They just kind of get me back into a state of mind … (of) keeping things simple,” she said. “I mean, I have been doing it for so long, it’s kind of a habit now, so if I don’t read it, it’s weird. … But it also helps me, especially in situations like today.”

Townsend wouldn’t offer specifics on what she writes in her notebook, saying with a smile: “I can’t give you my secrets.”

Townsend, who says she’s working toward a high school degree, earned a wild card from the U.S. Tennis Association based on her results during a series of lower-level tournaments this spring. Now she’s the youngest U.S. woman in the third round at Roland Garros since 2003.

“These are the moments, these are the things, that any young professional athlete is working for,” said the bubbly Townsend.

She celebrated on court with a dance that’s popular in her home state of Georgia, then chuckled through her news conference, including when informed that Wimbledon champion Andy Murray tweeted about her.

It just so happens that Townsend lasted longer at this French Open than the Williams sisters, who own a combined 24 Grand Slam titles but both lost earlier Wednesday.

Townsend didn’t even realize Serena Williams, the defending champion, had been defeated 6-2, 6-2 by Garbine Muguruza of Spain. Asked at her news conference about that result, Townsend looked genuinely stunned, putting her left palm to her check and saying: “Serena lost? She did? Oh. Oops. Whoa. … I thought she won. I saw (the score), 2 and 2. I was like, ‘Oh, that was fast.’ Wow.”

Townsend won the girls singles and doubles titles at the 2012 Australian Open and became the first American since 1982 to hold the year-end No. 1 junior ranking.

“She’s an unpredictable player. She can play some amazing shots. I think that … she was a bit scared to finish the match,” said Cornet, 24, whose best Grand Slam result was getting to the fourth round at the 2009 Australian Open.

“She has huge potential,” Cornet said. “I will keep a close eye on her.”

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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