Former Drew High student and Stockbridge resident Taylor Townsend says she is “living the dream” with her professional tennis career. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
RIVERDALE — On Friday, Taylor Townsend was just you typical 17-year-old high school student.
She was hanging out on the sidelines at Southern Crescent Stadium, watching her former Drew High classmates compete against rival Riverdale.
But everyone knows that Townsend is not your typical high school 17-year-old, by any stretch.
She is one of the top up-and-coming tennis players in the world. She recently competed at the U.S. Open in New York for the first time as a professional player. Townsend, a Stockbridge resident, is back in New York this week working with tennis legend Zina Garrison before her next tournament.
“It has really been going great for me,” Townsend said. “I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with someone like Zina Garrison. She is a legend in tennis. I’ve known her for a while, and we finally get to work together.”
Although she had a short stay in both the singles and doubles field at the U.S. Open, Townsend said she learned from the experience as a pro.
“Yes, there was no pressure, but no one likes to lose,” Townsend said. “I’m learning all about carrying myself as a professional on and off the court. Now that I’m a pro, there is a different mindset to approaching the tournaments.”
After a successful amateur career, Townsend decided to turn pro earlier this year. Before deciding to turn pro, Townsend had become the first American girl in 30 years to hold the year-end No. 1 juniors ranking.
And now, she has to work her way back into the elite group among tennis players as a first-year pro.
Despite her expected struggles, Townsend said she has no regrets on turning pro.
“No, I still think it was the right decision,” she said. “I have a lot to learn, but I’ve positioned myself with some good people. This is what I love to do. I love tennis, and I enjoy the work that it takes to get ready for the tournaments, and playing in the tournaments.”
She takes online classes to finish her requirements for a high school diploma.
Townsend’s father, Gary, is the principal at Drew High. He says that he is proud of his daughter’s accomplishments so far in her short lifespan.
“She has positioned herself well for the future, and I’m not just talking about in a monetary sense,” the elder Townsend said. “She has been to almost every continent in the world. Taylor knows people all over the world. I’m really proud of her for the hard work she has done to put herself in this position.”
Taylor does admit that it is times like Friday night football games that she misses being a regular teenager.
But she says she wouldn’t trade in her life as a professional tennis player for anything.
“I’m basically living my dream,” Townsend said. “I wake up every morning to do what I love. Yes, I do miss this Friday night football games. I miss being around my friends, but I’m happy with what I’m doing. There are no regrets in turning pro.”
And all the success hasn’t gone to Townsend’s head. Her former classmates say she is still the same humble person that they have known since the ninth grade.
“She is a super person,” Drew senior Lester Knauls said. “You wouldn’t even know that she is a professional athlete. She is so humble.”