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Junior girls sensation Taylor Townsend continues her impressive run at U.S. Open

Taylor Townsend returns the ball to Laura Ucros

Taylor Townsend returns the ball to Laura Ucros in the first round of junior girls' singles at the 2012 US Open tennis tournament. (Sept. 2, 2012) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Tennis is an open book for Taylor Townsend right now, and she's writing an appealing first chapter.

The 16-year-old from Riverdale, Ga., is the No. 1-ranked junior girls player in the world, won the Australian juniors this year and made the round of 16 in singles at the French Open and Wimbledon. She teamed with Canadian Eugenie Bouchard to win the Wimbledon doubles. She also won the tough and prestigious Orange Bowl tournament in Miami.

The impressive run continued Sunday when, as the No. 1 seed in girls singles at the Open, she defeated Laura Ucros of Colombia, 6-3, 6-3, in her opening match.

"After I won the Australian, round of 16 in the singles at the both French and Wimbledon, semis in doubles at the French and won Wimbledon in doubles, so I think I'm doing pretty well," Townsend said, flashing her customary big smile which showed a mouth full of braces. "Just went back and worked really hard. I'm trying to go for gold here."

Townsend displayed a game that was more about placement than power against Ucros. She doesn't have anything like the serve the Williams sisters had at her age, but the lefty can swing it wide to both courts and her spinning second serve isn't a powder puff. She's got a whippy forehand that she seems able to place at the last split second.

Townsend left high school in Georgia to work at the USTA's academy in Boca Raton, Fla. That is a likely precursor to hitting the pro tour full time, though as a 16-year-old, she is limited by the WTA to 12 events annually, though she could earn more based on performance. College might not be an option if she's competing at a strong level on tour. And she's already adorned with Nike swooshes, from hat to shirt to shoes.

"I know it takes time, it's a process," Townsend said. "The pro circuit is very tough. You can play some very good people who aren't ranked very high. You can't underestimate anyone. Anyone can win on any given day no matter the circumstances. I am ready to be patient, but if something happens where I win some rounds and I jump up, I'll be happy."

She's keenly watching the progress of Britain's Laura Robson, 18, who defeated major titlewinners Kim Clijsters and Li Na this year at the Open, and lost Sunday to defending champion Samantha Stosur. Townsend lost a tough three-setter to Robson in the main draw qualifier at last year's Open.

"I have been watching her very closely," Townsend said. "I'm really happy for her, she's doing really well. Playing her last year kind of gave me a gauge. I know she won Wimbledon [the 2008 Junior title] . . . It kind of gave me a gauge where I am, how much she has improved and how she is competing. It really shows me what I can do."

Last year, she earned a wild card into the Open qualifying, but this year, she wasn't ranked high enough to get direct entry, and didn't play the U.S. junior nationals this summer where success could have gotten her in. She was vague about her lack of junior tournaments this summer, saying "there was a lot going on."

Coming up for her is junior Fed Cup. And after that?

"I have to have my wisdom teeth pulled," she said.

On her necklace was a shark's tooth, which she wore while winning in Australia.

"I'm a little bit superstitious," Townsend said. "I got it at the Fort Lauderdale airport."


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