If the support of Richard Williams watching courtside isn’t motivation enough, then Taylor Townsend only needs look at the armful of wristbands emblazoned with inspirational messages, or read through the private notes written into a notebook she sometimes pulls from her racket bag between games or sets.
The world No.1 ranked junior needed none of those things as she overcame Maria Constanza De Las Me Vega 6-2, 6-1 in the first round of the Wimbledon girls’ event in a convincing performance that showcased the powerful aggression that’s already becoming a trademark for the American.
Still, it’s nice to know those resources are on hand if required, the 15-year-old later talking about the boost provided by Williams’ presence. “He was cheering for me. It was really nice to see him again because he was with me at the US Open as well,” Townsend said.
Townsend is also gaining inspiration from four-times Wimbledon champion Serena Williams, even if she’s reluctant to seek her long-time idol’s advice amid the intensity of such a high-profile event. “If I get a chance to sit down and talk to [Serena], or even just go and watch her play or something, that’s enough advice in itself,'' she said.
Then there’s the coil of wrist bands that include such messages as ‘Power, Passion, Purpose’, ‘Impossible is Nothing’, ‘Live Strong, ‘Believe’ and ‘Celebrate Life’. There’s also one she laughingly confesses she stole from her friend, the men’s player Donald Young “just because it’s orange” and another that states ‘Celebrate Life’, which was passed on from a breast cancer survivor.
“All of them have a specific inspirational message on them,” she said. “Whenever I start losing focus or getting down, I just look at one of them.”
As for the notebook, that was barely required against Vega. “I’m really superstitious so I didn’t read it in between the games. I was playing really well and I was like, ‘You know what? That’s going to stay in my bag” and then I read it in between the sets just to, you know, start off clear-minded.”
Indeed, the way in which Townsend overcame her first round opponent in cool and blustery conditions – hitting 35 winners to Vega’s seven – highlighted the manner in which she dictated her Wimbledon debut. It required some patience, Townsend first sitting out a rain delay and then being surprised as Vega successfully served to her forehand side early in the match.
“She came out strong but I just tried to keep the ball in play, keep it simple and just play my game,” Townsend said. “Apparently my Dad looked up my stats and told me I came into the net 30 times, so that’s good. I’m learning!”
Most pleasing about Townsend’s first-round performance was the fact that her natural aggression proved so well suited to the All England Club’s grass courts, even in difficult playing conditions.
“I think it’s really like the grass and I are one. We get along pretty well,” Townsend surmised with a broad smile. “It was definitely tough conditions today. It’s all about adjusting. That’s what I did but I still enjoyed it and the shots that I felt are effective, I still used them and they were very effective. More today than any other day.”
A winner of the Australian Open girls’ singles and doubles earlier this year, Townsend would love nothing more than to further extend her domination at Wimbledon. “Honestly, it means a lot to me,” she said. “I can’t even put it in words how much I love the grass and just the event in general. I just love it. It’s so classy.”