Eighteen-year-old Taylor Townsend is not your typical tennis player. Not only is she the youngest American to advance to the third round of the French Open in five years, she is also heavier than most of her competitors.
Regardless of her unique talent, her weight has drawn a lot of negative attention. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) tried to bench her after she won the junior title at the Australian Open, and denied assisting her financially for “health reasons” in 2012, claiming she had not physically trained properly to compete.
The Chicago born athlete knows she looks different but she doesn’t care. She told CBS, “They can say whatever they want to say, but no one really understands. They're not in my body, they're not here, they're not playing. So it's like, whatever they want to say, they can say. But I just try to keep the ball rolling."
Instead of letting critics bring her down, she worked out even harder before her victory. "I started working really hard trying to get in the best shape that I could be for my body," Townsend said on Good Morning America. "It actually turned out to be a huge strength for me. It helped me believe in myself more. It also opened my eyes to say, 'You know, you're not going to look like everyone else.'"
All of her efforts paid off when she beat France's top-ranked player, Alize Cornet on Wednesday. "These are just the moments that I have been working for," she said. Her dance after she defeated Cornet (6-4, 4-6, 6-4) got a lot of buzz. "I was doing my little victory dance I was so happy. But it feels really great.”
Her time in France ended Friday after she was defeated by Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro (6-2, 6-2) in the third round on Friday but Townsend still has high hopes. "It's the most fun I've had. I couldn't have asked for anything better,” she told Reuters.
"I really learned a lot this week. I'm so happy and fortunate I had this opportunity. "I have a lot of weapons, and I have a lot of gifts and talents that not many people have, that I have to believe in,” she said.
Townsend proves that being different is still beautiful and her size has no effect on her ability to perform on the court. Her success in France is just the beginning of a bright future.