|Nineteen-year-old Taylor Townsend may have lost her first-round match at the French Open, but this Chicago native is an up-and-comer in the tennis world.
Townsend grew up in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, which is known for being a troubled area. The neighborhood ranks fifth in terms of violent crimes in the city, according to The Chicago Tribune.
After training at XS Tennis Academy in the neighborhood of Kenwood, Townsend has been described as a “throwback” in the sport for her aggressive serve-and-volley style.
She describes the technique as something that makes her special. “I just want to incorporate it more and make that a more natural part of my game again,” she said when speaking to Sports Illustrated
Townsend lost her match against 20-year-old Tereza Smitkova of the Czech Republic, but she’s early in her career. She recently played against Serena Williams at last year’s U.S. Open, who is ranked No. 1 in women’s tennis in the world.
Townsend isn’t so bad, either. She recently ranked as No. 94 and was the top-ranked junior on the courts.
She began playing in tournaments in 2010 at the age of 14. It’s not uncommon to see more and more younger players taking part in tennis at their local racquet and tennis clubs these days; among six to 11-year-olds, participation in the sport increased by 13% from 2011 to 2012.
At last year’s French Open, which was her first Grand Slam, she made it to the third round, making her the youngest American to do so in the past five years.
But her career hasn’t been without controversy. In 2012, the U.S. Tennis Association asked then 16-year-old Townsend to sit out the junior U.S. Open until she had lost some weight.
She is still the same size, at 5-foot-6 and 170 pounds, but the incident did cause her to split from USTA coaches.
But Townsend didn’t let the incident dampen her spirits, and she’s trying to bring tennis, which she’s described before as a very “white” sport, to Chicago’s South Side.
She even convinced the Chicago Housing Authority to build a $9.8 million tennis facility in Bronzeville, not far from where she grew up.
Her rankings may take a drop after the French Open, but she is still expected to stay somewhere in the Top 150, according to SI.com.