The Shape Is The Heart of the Matter

Interesting article in the New York Times today ( about Taylor Townsend, the 16-year-old, No. 1-ranking girls junior player, who is turning pro in January. Townsend won the Aussie Open junior girls title last year, but she’s gotten more attention because of the USTA’s decision at the US Open in August not to pay for her trip to New York because they said she was not in peak condition.

In the article, Townsend is compared to Serena Williams in game and figure, but her weight is not given. She’s just referred to as a “sturdy 5-foot-6.” Now before I get fully into this matter, I must disclose that I was fired as the Pace University tennis coach about ten years ago because I told one of my top female players (she was on a 3/4 scholarship that amounted to $17.5 thou a year that the previous coach had given her) that she was not in good shape. I think she accused me of saying that I told her she was “fat” which I honestly don’t think I did. But I laid into her because the morning of a day in which she lost an afternoon match to a player of recreational tennis ability, she drank three glasses of orange juice. I told her to put all that sugar into her body just hours before she was playing was not good for her energy level. Then she told me after the match that she lost love and four to a girl who was a parks player, because the girl got “lucky.” I said, “You don’t lose love and four to an opponent because they’re lucky. You lost because you blasted every first ball trying to hit a winner. If you had listened to what I was telling you at the changeovers, and kept the ball in play, you could’ve waltzed through that match.” Again, it was a matter of fitness, she didn’t want to do the hard work. The athletic director, who was a fat dude, I have no reservations in saying that, and didn’t know tennis from volleyball, fired me.

Well, anyway, back to Townsend and her comparisons with Serena. Townsend said as a lefty and a net-rusher, she modeled her game more after Martina Navratilova, who might’ve been 5-7, but once she got in shape, she was probably like 135 pounds. Townsend looks much more. When Serena turned pro, she did not have the body type she has now. Serena was taut, 5-foot-9 and very fit.

Here’s what Townsend’s opponent in the semis of the Orange Bowl just this month, said about beating Townsend and her game and body-type: “She’s very talented and smart and plays great like that,” Konjuh said. “But if she wants to be a pro, she has to lose some weight. In the second set, I felt she couldn’t run as much. If she gets fit, she can be a really, really good player.” This girl is a 14-year-old Croat.

“If she gets fit, she can be a really, really good player.” I think that remarks is so candid and wise. And in regards to American tennis players of late, it is the single most important piece of advice. The only American male to win a slam in the past decade has been Roddick and he always was uber-fit till the last couple of years when injuries took their toll and reduced his fitness and his effectiveness. But from Mardy Fish to John Isner to Sam Querrey to Rhyne Williams, these guys are just not as fit as the top male players and it has cost them dearly.

Even in the women’s game, after Serena who is fit, but just bustier and bigger than all the other women, from Venus to Christina McHale to Melanie Oudin, these women are just not fit enough to compete and win a the top of the game. So now Taylor Townsend moves up into the pro ranks. If she wants to make a name for herself other than the one that has unfortunately been already cast upon her, she’s going to have to go from “sturdy” to “strong, quick and firm” in reporters’ notebooks and articles.

1 comment

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 26, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    Dan funny but weird story about getting axed for telling the truth. Woody Hayes would have lasted about a half hour at Pace. Are we sure TT is not just a big bodied athlete, kind of like Buster Mathis or Cecil Fielder? Some athletes are just big and brawny, and not your typical Sharapova or Stosur type of specimen. Is it known she overeats the wrong foods? As long as she is not quitting matches from exhaution, she is doing fine and her body is getting the job done. Sure, she will have to get in better shape for the pros, she is obviously a very smart girl to be #1 in the juniors means she is physically and mentally superior to everyone. She has a beautiful game, reminds me of Rios how she flows out there.



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