Deep in the third set of her opening Girls’ Singles first round match, Taylor Townsend was staring down the barrel of a significant deficit.
The No.5 seed was serving at 5-5, 15-40, with just one more lost point giving gritty opponent Iryna Shymanovich a chance to serve for the match. She saved one of the two break points, and then, tracking a lob back almost as far back as the baseline, took an overhead on the full under extreme pressure and smashed it for a winner.
“Gosh, that was the tightest overhead smash I’ve ever hit in my life,” she laughed. “I made it. It was so close to the line – I saw the chalk fly up. It kind of gave me a little bit more confidence at that point in time because I saved a break point and then that kind of took a bit of pressure off me to just go for my serve. I think that was a big turning point in the match.”
Indeed it was. The 2012 Australian Open junior champion went on to hold for 6-5, and romped through the next game as a deflated Shymanovich dished up four straight errors.
Townsend’s 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-5 win sets up a second round match with Sandra Samir of Egypt, a player whom the American is aware of after her country recently faced Egypt on Junior Fed Cup. She almost didn’t make it to the next round – it was a scratchy match in which she found herself down 3-0 to begin the opening set and constantly battling to shake her Belarusian opponent.
Yet Townsend hit enough winners – 41 in all, to 35 errors – to move through, an aggressive approach she said which was brought out by the surface.
Earlier in the day, Turkish No.16 seed Ipek Soylu beat highly-rated Australian prospect Lizette Cabrera.
Cabrera, just 15, was down a set and a break before levelling the second set at 4-4. And Soylu had difficulty putting her away in the 10th game, holding match points up 40-15 but watching as Cabrera played a sizzling backhand down the line to level at deuce.
Soylu, 17, managed to tighten up her game in the nick of time to seal a 6-3, 6-4 victory, setting up a second round match against Katherine Ip of Hong Kong.
Soylu and Townsend were among seven seeded girls progressing to the second round; others included fourth-seeded Czech Barbora Krejcikova, No.6 Elise Mertens of Belgium, Carol Zhao of Canada (ninth), Swiss No.11 seed Karin Kennel and No.1 seed Belinda Bencic.
Bencic overwhelmed Britain’s Freya Christie, 6-1, 6-1. The stats sheet told the story of the day, with Bencic recording 21 winners to 13 errors, while Christie’s tally slumped to 6-21.
The Swiss player, of Slovak heritage and the reigning French Open junior champion, stormed through the opening set and began the second in similar fashion, crushing a crosscourt backhand for a clean winner to hold for 1-0 and striding purposefully to her chair.
While Christie struggled on serve, Bencic flourished, smacking consecutive aces en route to a 3-0 lead. And while the local got on the board in the fourth game, she was constantly on the back foot and rushed for time as Bencic relentlessly pounded groundstrokes to within inches of the baseline.
The No.1 seed completed the match with an ace and a service winner, and will next face Greetje Minnen of Belgium.
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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