NEW YORK — After winning her third-round match of the US Open on Aug. 31, Taylor Townsend raised her right hand and made that repetitive hand-to-mouth eating gesture that you can see on any given Sunday in the NFL.
Let’s Eat. –@TaylorTownsend
— Mr. Harper (@SplashBrotha) August 31, 2019
After years of playing mostly on the outposts of tennis, Townsend was eager to feast on.
Unfortunately for Townsend, her US Open run came to an end against Bianca Andreescu, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2, in her round of 16 match at Arthur Ashe Stadium that began late Monday night and ended early Tuesday morning. But as she reached the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career (having to win three qualifying matches to reach the main draw, she actually played into her third week), Townsend was able to walk away from the US Open with something that’s been lacking for much of her career.
Her peers embraced her, which hit home for Townsend when Rafael Nadal stepped to her and expressed his appreciation for her accomplishment as just the 11th qualifier to reach the round of 16 of a Slam in the Open era.
The fans appreciated her, especially after Townsend beat two-time Slam champion Simona Halep in the second round. Ellen DeGeneres, Samuel L. Jackson and Kobe Bryant were among the athletes and entertainers showering her with love.
And Townsend accomplished everything while being comfortable in her own skin. The 23-year-old has embraced her body and says she doesn’t care about trying to conform to the image of what a professional athlete is supposed to look like.
Combined with her affinity for an old school, serve-and-volley game that’s a refreshing contrast to those baseline slugfests, Townsend escorted a lot of fans on a trip down memory lane.
“It’s amazing to see that the tennis community is watching and embracing and appreciating something that’s not the norm,” Townsend said. “Much love to the people who have just come up to me and said thank you, and appreciating the things I have done.”
The main thing Townsend did in her shocking run through the tournament was rush the net and control the center of the court. It worked to perfection against Halep, the No. 4 seed. In that stunning win, Townsend rushed the net 106 times and won 60% of the net points.
On Monday, however, Townsend won only 41% of the net points as Andreescu negated her strength. Andreescu controlled the middle of the court by driving shots into Townsend’s body and feet. That led Townsend to abandon a game plan that had been so successful.
While Townsend altered her game plan, which was instrumental in her winning the second set, she could never find a proper flow.
Andreescu, the 19-year-old from Canada, kept the pressure on Townsend the entire match.
“She doesn’t give you any rhythm whatsoever,” Andreescu said of the challenges facing Townsend. “I’m a pretty good problem-solver on the tennis court; it’s developed over time.”
Time ran out for Townsend just as she was attempting to take another step in a women’s bracket that’s been filled with upsets.
Still, Townsend doesn’t leave New York empty-handed. She earned $280,000 for the tournament, which is a far cry from the $228 check she received from an ITF tour stop early last year.
On one of her Instagram posts, there’s that photo of Townsend’s “hand to plate” moment with the words: “Don’t touch my plate, I’m not done eating.”
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Don’t touch my plate, I’m not done eating
While her feasting in New York is over, Townsend is hoping the confidence she’s gained over these past few weeks will help her earn future seats at the table.
“I feel better than ever before,” Townsend said over the weekend of her experience. “I’m just thankful for where I am now and the things I had to go through in order to be here.”