By Blair Henley / Monday, October 28, 2013
Considered by many to be the future of American women’s tennis, Taylor Townsend
is focused on living up to the hype. The former junior No. 1 will wrap up 2013 – her first season as a pro – with nearly two months of intense training in hopes of making an impact on the WTA Tour next year.
In September, the 17-year-old moved on from her sometimes-rocky
relationship with the USTA in favor of the personal touch an individual coach provides. Former world No. 4, Zina Garrison
, got the call. Though Townsend admits the two are still feeling each other out, Garrison is intent on bringing her charge from junior phenom to pro contender.
Townsend’s bubbly personality, as yet unadulterated by the harsh glare of the media spotlight, is refreshing and endearing. Assuming she builds on her current rank of 237 in 2014, she’ll have no trouble assembling a loyal fan base. In Houston, Texas, to train with Garrison, Townsend spoke with Tennis Now on a variety of topics ranging from her tennis training to Justin Timberlake
. Check out the Q & A below or see the full version with clips from Townsend’s practice above.
First off, what are your thoughts on Texas?
I like it! The Longhorns, the “man-steaks” that I’ve seen on the cook channel and all that stuff. I know that Texas is famous for really good food, and the people here have “Southern hospitality,” so it’s cool.
I know you already use the word “y’all,” so you’re halfway to being a Texan already.
Yes, I’ve been using it more lately. When I first came down, I refused to use that word, but now I find myself using it more and more. This is not good. I’m losing my Chicago-ness!
You started working with Zina in September. What is the biggest thing you two have been focusing on?
Basically, we’ve been trying to feel each other out. We’ve touched on a lot of things. She’s brought it out of me - the person that I am, and the kind of player I want to grow into. She’s putting a lot of emphasis on me knowing me. I’m learning a lot about myself.
What is something that you’ve found out about yourself?
I found out that, [pause], I’m very stubborn [laughs].
That’s a new discovery?
Yeah I thought that I wasn’t. I thought I was really open, but it turns out I’m not. I’m trying to work really hard on being receptive to information that I don’t agree with. [Trying to] use it to my benefit and not taking it like she’s being mean or he’s being mean. They are trying to help you.
For 2014, is there one thing that you can point to that is going to help you make an impact?
I’m really looking forward to this coming preseason. This preseason is going to set the tone and really give me a good head start for the upcoming season. This is finally a time where I’m not ripping and running. I’ve designated seven or eight weeks where we can just put our heads down and train. I’m going to hurt and I’m going to cry - I already know it. But I’m looking forward to it, and I think it’s going to be a huge boost.
If you were in “normal” school right now, you’d probably be getting ready for homecoming. Do you miss that kind of thing?
It’s my homecoming week this week! I do miss it so much, but all of [my friends] understand. I’m privileged to be able to share my experiences with them. Some of them haven’t even been out of Georgia before. They look up to me, and I just try to tell them that they can do anything they want. Also, they know that I’m not like really bougie
or anything. I haven’t changed.
Sounds like you’re going to be training hard, but will you have any time to have some fun this offseason?
My mom is actually taking me to the Bahamas. I’m trying to get my sister to go, but she says she doesn’t like boats…
That’s a problem.
That’s a huge problem! We’re going to go stay there and celebrate Junkanoo. It’s a huge parade where they dress up and everything. It’s really fun.
You mentioned that it’s going to be a tough couple of months for you, training wise. Do you have a dedicated fitness coach as well?
Yes. There are two different trainers. When I go down to Florida, I’m going to do a lot of work in the pool and stuff like that. It’s gonna be fun. I’m looking forward to it.
Is there any particular workout that just makes you want to run in the other direction?
Most of them, actually (laughs). The pool workout is fun, but it’s really, really hard. I was swimming every day at a point, and I was getting really good. But whenever you don’t swim for two days, you lose it. I’ll be trying to get back into the swing of that, using different things in the water, with the resistance, with the snorkel. [My trainer] already told me I have to learn how to use a snorkel, and I can’t do it. I always put my head under and inhale water.
After this past season, you’ve gotten a pretty good taste of life on the WTA Tour. Did you love it? Did it take some getting used to?
It took some getting used to. The trainers were like, “Taylor! Stop coming in here when you’re injured. You need to come in here to maintain.” I was like, “What? I don’t want to come in here if I’m not hurting!” But those are just little things. I loved it, getting to stay in super nice hotels and getting to hang around all these people that I see on TV. I loved it. I want to get there as fast as I can and stay there.
Who are your girls on tour?
Honestly, I don’t have that many. There’s one girl, Megan Moulton-Levy
, that I played World Team Tennis with for three weeks. She’s one of the nicest people ever. She’s really the only friend that I have on the tour. But I did get to talk to Serena
a couple of times and Venus
. She’s really nice. They are people that I can talk to…really great people.
Let’s finish with a lightning round, shall we?
Most famous Twitter follower?
I love sweets. Anything that’s sweet. I love it so much.
Favorite song on your iPod?
These are so hard! I really love the song Adore You
off of Miley Cyrus’ new album.
Biggest strength on the court?
My forehand volleys.
I’m not telling!
Harry Styles or Justin Timberlake?
Justine Timberlake, for sure.
Forehand or backhand?
Best way to relax after practice?
I love to dance, to play music, sing and dance. I love it so much. I can really release. (Pauses) No, singing and dancing when nobody’s looking because I can do whatever I want. When people are looking, I’m just like, “Absolutely not.”
Martina. She’s amazing. She’s awesome.