MELBOURNE, Australia - For all the talk of the decline of American tennis, the nation is actually doing great at the moment: both Williams sisters are back, youngsters such as Christina McHale, Vania King, Irina Falconi and Sloane Stephens are all in the Top 100, the Top 2 doubles players are American and Bethanie Mattek-Sands just won her first Slam in Australia.
Another future US star announced herself in a very big way Down Under.
Seeded No.14 in the girls' draw, Taylor Townsend wasn't picked by many to make it too far, but after a pair of quick wins in her first two matches the talented 15-year-old left-hander only seemed to gather more steam, pulling off back-to-back upsets in the next two rounds, over the No.3 and No.12 seeds, then beating fellow American Krista Hardebeck in straight sets in the semis and No.4 seed Yulia Putintseva of Russia in a hard-fought final, 61 36 63.
It capped a dream week for Townsend, who had also won the doubles title the day before with another young American player, Gabrielle Andrews.
"It didn't really hit me until I got in the locker room. I asked Gabby, 'What has happened again?'" Townsend said. "It's really exciting. It's a dream come true for me. A lot of people were supporting me, and my family and everything are just so proud. It was a proud moment for me and the feelings kind of rushed in."
Townsend's support over the years has come from some very knowledgable names, including the parents of ATP player Donald Young, and her current coach, Kathy Rinaldi, who made it up to No.9 on the WTA in the 1980s.
"Kathy didn't present any specific expectations as far as winning and losing is concerned. She just wants us to go out and play our best and leave it out on the court every match," Townsend said of Rinaldi's coaching style. "That's pretty much what a coach can ask for, just leave it out on the court and keep working on things we work on in practice, and also keep a good, positive attitude.
"My expectation was to play my game and play within myself every match, and not really conform to the game styles of these other girls by playing at the baseline. I wanted to move forward and be aggressive, which is how I play.
"Definitely when I got through to the quarterfinals, I was like, 'You have three more matches and you can win this.' So I just took it one match at a time."
Townsend's forward-thinking style of play is a bit of a rarity on the tour these days, especially in the juniors, where the baseline game has really taken over.
"I have pretty good hands. I have pretty good hand-eye coordination. Ever since I was young, when I started playing tennis, we always did volleys. Mr. Young and Ms. Young and all of them, they always taught me just to move forward. It's something that was engrained in my head since I started when I was young.
"I guess the game style just grew on me and I kept doing it."
The Georgia native also showed some souvenir-gathering skills reminiscent of some of today's biggest champions. "I was actually surprised that I saw four towels, like two towels on one seat and two towels on the other. I was like, 'Whoa, I'm gonna snag these,'" she said with a smile. "I now have five!"
What's next for Townsend? "I'm just going to keep doing what we've been doing. I'm playing a $100,000 in about a week, so I'm just going to start from the drawing board, start on square one. I'm playing qualies. it's a great opportunity.
"I'm just gonna go there and do my thing."