The American on her pregnancy, changing attitudes and tennis success in spite of dismay at a young age
While, after months of absence, tennis players around the world are slowly returning to competition this week, there is one notable player who will not be around for a while.
Taylor Townsend announced in the final months of last season that she was pregnant and would give birth in March.
Some mother players would prefer to put their tennis first, and so her case is worth noting simply because it reflects a clear cultural shift in women’s tennis today.
In short, for those who choose it, this is becoming a normal career option in women’s tennis.
Townsend says, “I think 15 years ago, if you were pregnant and had a child, it was over,” The whole dynamic has just changed, and I believe the sport has evolved and realized that this is part of the life of a woman. It’s part of what being a woman means. Women get pregnant, they have children, but what you do does not stop it.
And the path you want to be on does not stop.
She did so in style when Townsend announced the news in October.
The American described in chronological order some of the many times people have doubted her with her venomous words in a social media video, and that she won’t be influenced by her next challenge. Her first example was the most shocking one: she was told to quit tennis at just four years of age. “I was told, ‘You’re too fat,’ ‘You can’t move,’ ‘You need to quit,’ ‘She won’t make it,’ ‘She’s too big,’ ‘You can’t move,’ ‘You need to quit,’ ‘She won’t make it,’ ‘She’s too big,’
I heard all that dumb shit. That’s what I’ve heard since I started playing.
In Townsend’s career, this has been a constant theme, especially since 2012, when, despite being ranked No. 1 in the world junior rankings, the United States Tennis Association asked her to withdraw from the junior U.S. Open, because her fitness was not adequate. Even at last year’s US Open, when she was pregnant, the comments continued. “I stopped listening to it and thought to myself, ‘I need to be happy with who I am.
I need to be at peace with myself,'” she says. “You’re never going to look like them, that’s fine.
But that doesn’t stop me from going out and kicking ass. Whatever the things are that are holding me back, I can use that as a drive to move forward.”
The obstacles Townsend has faced have only toughened her skin and increased her drive. “I’m in a cool place because the things I went through as a kid when I was starting out, I’ll never let that happen to my kid.
It’s given me the opportunity to learn from the things I’ve been through and to shape and change the path for my child.
Because I will fight someone if they try to tell my four-year-old that they can’t do something.
That’s just insane. That kind of person is not going to exist.”
Townsend recently revealed that she is in a financial dispute with her mother over endorsement money and says it has had a big impact on how she carries herself. Her circle has gotten smaller.
She’s not willing to trust without being sure it will be reciprocated with trustworthiness. “I went through a screening process and really got rid of all the junk. Now I’m at the point where I’m pregnant, having a baby and not playing right now. When I go through that process, I know what I’m expecting, and it’s very clear.”
In one of her last prominent appearances before the pandemic, Townsend reached the fourth round of the 2019 US Open after beating Simona Halep 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) in the second round.
In an era when most players spend their time running away from the net, it was perhaps the best net-rushing performance of the generation.
She went to the net more than 100 times, and in the final set she essentially tried to serve and volley on every first and second serve.
She describes that moment as a “pivotal point” in her career that gave her the confidence that she really could beat top players. Those ambitions haven’t stopped and Townsend is already planning her return between March and May 2022 after taking time off to learn the ropes of motherhood. There’s more to come.