Taylor Townsend’s dream run continues at the US Open as she finally manages to earn a well-deserved breakthrough run in front of a supportive crowd. A very successful junior during her teenage years, the American struggled with her transition to the professional tour and met with a series of criticism along the way, but this time she finally proved her worth in Flushing Meadows, with her achievements getting recognized by the likes of sports great Kobe Bryant.
Just days after stunning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep in the tournament’s biggest upset so far, Townsend did what so many counterparts could not do — back up the win. On many occasions, the underdogs were unable to sustain their high level of play but Townsend defied the odds and produced a magnificent performance to beat Halep’s compatriot Sorana Cirstea in the third round in New York.
Cirstea had a bright start but succumbed to the world-class net game of Townsend ultimately, with the home favourite making the second week of a Major for the first time in her career at the age of 23, five years after her Grand Slam debut at the 2014 French Open when she made the third round.
It was not even a bad performance from Cirstea, as she managed to hit 21 winners to 20 unforced errors just that she faced a better opponent in the match. Her initial tactics were working extremely well, but towards the end, Townsend was simply dominating the match as Cirstea grew increasingly frustrated with herself.
Blasting 30 winners to just 14 unforced errors, Townsend charged towards the net on 75 different occasions, 58 per cent of all the points in the match. She dominated the play after a slow start and looked confident in herself as she marches into the fourth round, where she will face the in-form Bianca Andreescu who has not lost a completed match since March.
Townsend overcomes a slow start and closes out the first set
Cirstea had the better start into the match as she came out of the blocks firing, claiming the early break for a 2-0 lead. It took quite a while for the home favourite Townsend to warm up to the occasion, but the American was able to break straight back to get onto the scoreboard with some fantastic net coverage.
Applying pressure from the baseline, Cirstea used raw power and placement of her groundstrokes to keep Townsend at bay and prevent her from charging towards the net. She was able to find the pass at the net and continued to punish Townsend’s serve-and-volley attempts with ruthless returns.
Once again, Townsend was able to find the reply, this time with a backhand winner as she continued to excel on the returns. The world number 116 finally held serve, but not after saving three break points as her confidence at the net bloomed. Cirstea replied with a commanding love service hold to regain her footing.
Consecutive service holds followed, but Townsend escaped from a tricky situation while serving at 4-5, 30-30 as a perfectly-placed smash handed her a game point instead of gifting Cirstea a set point. That kickstarted a run of 10 consecutive points as the American ultimately strolled to seal the opening frame 7-5.
Townsend seals the impressive win
Townsend continued to roll through the games as she won a fifth consecutive game to take an early 2-0 lead in the second set, looking set for the huge victory. Cirstea finally stopped the rout with a tight service hold but was unable to find an opening on the return as the American was simply too solid at the net.
Cirstea had no sorts of momentum but still managed to keep the scores close to apply the pressure on her younger opponent, in hope that the nerves of closing the match will ultimately get to her. What pressure, though? Townsend has been playing some clutch tennis and eventually clinched the double-break advantage with a Cirstea double-fault down break point.
Serving for the match, Townsend was forced to save two break points and she did not disappoint as a forehand into the net from Cirstea sealed the 23-year-old’s passage into the fourth round for the first time in her career.