SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Taylor Townsend's all-court game was firing at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, where the 26-year-old earned her first main-draw victory on the Hologic WTA Tour in two-and-a-half years. A qualifier, Townsend defeated Storm Sanders 6-1, 6-4 in the first round to book her first win since the 2020 Australian Open.
"I think I played well," Townsend told WTA Insider after the win. "It always feels good coming through qualifying. You get to kind of work out some kinks. Haven't played a singles match in like probably like six weeks, so it's been a while."
The victory was another successful step in Townsend's return to the tour after giving birth to her son Adyn in April of last year. Townsend returned to competition earlier this spring in April and proceeded to make back-to-back quarterfinals on the ITF circuit before winning her third event at the ITF W100 in Charleston. Now in the best shape of her life, the former No.1 is ready to tackle the tour once again.
"It's so great to have her back, and I think she's back and better than ever," said Madison Keys, Townsend's doubles partner en route to the French Open semifinal this spring. "She played incredible tennis today. She's really taken on motherhood in a way that I applaud because I'm not sure I could do it. She seems like a superhero."
WTA Insider sat down with Townsend in San Jose to reflect on the progress of her comeback and how she's incorporated both the challenges and the joys of motherhood into her professional career.
WTA Insider: Since you've come back you've already won a big ITF title, made the semifinals of doubles at Roland Garros, and now you've won the second tour-level singles match you've contested. Has this success felt quick to you?
Townsend: Well, it's crazy because everyone's just like, 'Oh, it happened so fast,' and I'm like, 'No, it's been forever.' But I think it's going according to plan because I mapped out this from when I first found out that I was pregnant. I mapped out my road to recovery, how long I was going to be out, when tentatively I wanted to start back playing again.
Did I think I was going to be like quarterfinals, quarterfinals, win? Probably not. But when I came back, I made a goal that when I step back on the court, I'm going to be ready to win. That was the only promise that I made to myself.
So I made sure that when I came back that I was ready to compete and I was ready to win, physically, mentally and emotionally. It's going according to plan. I think that's great.
WTA Insider: Why did you decide to map out our comeback plans so concretely?
Townsend: I have a Type-A personality, and I've never had anything take me away from the game this long. So when I realized that it was going to be a while, I was like, 'OK, what is this going to look like,' because I don't operate well in limbo. I really had to have something.
I knew that it was far-fetched because I still had another seven months of incubating a child. I had no idea what the birth was going to be like. I had a great pregnancy, but then I ended up having to have a C-section. So that was opposite of what I thought was going to happen and what I had planned for. That delayed the recovery process another two months, just trying to make sure that you baby-step stuff so that you don't hurt yourself even more.
So I had to have something that I could look forward to and something that I had to aspire to in a timeframe. But also, it seemed like it went by fast but it was enough time for me to enjoy being a mom, being a new mom, and that's what I wanted.
First and foremost, I wanted to enjoy and not feel rushed to have to get back on court. I wanted to understand and really fully immerse myself in what it's like to be a mom. And I did that for six months. I was basically with him all day, every day for the first six months, I breastfed for 10 months.
And then I was like, 'Alright, I'm good (laughs).'
At that point I was like, alright, it's time for me to start doing stuff for myself, get that separation time. And it was hard at first. But it was something that was needed. Now he comes to practice and he understands that this is what I do. So it's been a cool journey to watch it progress.
WTA Insider: Are you going to be traveling with Adyn throughout the U.S. swing?
Townsend: He's going to come to Cincinnati and the U.S. Open. So everyone's super excited. Nobody cares about me and everyone cares about him. I want that on record.
I'll make sure that he's in the press room like Riley Curry. It's going to be like that. Maybe he'll slap me during a press conference because that's on brand.
#tortillachallenge with @CocoGauff and @TaylorTownsend 🤣#AtlantaOpen | #USOpenSeries pic.twitter.com/3eIcdRpFHo— Atlanta Open 🎾 (@ATLOpenTennis) July 25, 2022
WTA Insider: When did you feel you were ready to compete?
Townsend: I knew it even before I went to my first tournament. I had put so much work in to get where I was, just having that mental chip, knowing that I earned my way to be back on the court.
Before my first match, I was so nervous. I was shaking because I just hadn't played. Those jitters that you feel when you're playing and the adrenaline and being able to manage that so that you don't duff the match, that was what I was the most worried about. Once you're in it and you feel those things, it's exciting.
I didn't know what the path was going to look like. We had a roadmap, but we didn't know how it was going to go. But I had goals and I had objectives and my coach and I are seeing eye to eye. My whole thought process was just building and trying to do stuff better and better. Each time that I stepped on the court, I was just trying to do something better, and that was my mindset to not get discouraged or to try to keep my expectations in check.
WTA Insider: Tennis-wise, do you think you're playing differently now compared to before your break?
Townsend: I think so. I just think that I'm playing a more mature style of tennis. A little bit smarter tactically and more aware of what's happening on court and trying to be more strategic.
It's been fun. It's been challenging, but I've had to kind of shift the way that I see the game. Like I said, I have a Type-A personality, so I kind of had blinders on and this is what I see. I'm trying to expand that viewpoint and see it from a broader perspective and see how can I do what I do, but better.
I made some changes to my serve, made some changes to my technique in certain things, racquet changes. So it's been a lot of different changes, but it's all tweaks to try and just see if it makes me better. That's honestly the goal and that's all that I've been worried about.
WTA Insider: You mentioned having a C-section. What was the process of getting yourself physically ready to return to competition?
Townsend: Oh, it has not been easy at all. The biggest thing for me was just having a clear understanding of what I wanted, in terms of how I felt I wanted to approach my tennis and the return back because it's a big emotional jump.
My commitment was never in question, but I wanted to make sure that emotionally I was invested 100% because it's hard to sever and become selfish again. You have to become selfish and it's so hard. You have to do this for the child, you got to make time to pump and do all of this stuff in the extra hours throughout the day. But you have to make sure that you're still taking the time to do things that you need to do and resting and recovering. So it's really difficult to manage.
The bounce-back, it's been difficult. The biggest thing was just making that commitment to myself and understanding that this is a journey. It's not going to happen overnight. Just like I didn't blow up overnight. It was a process. So it's going to take a while and just being kind to myself and understanding that sometimes it happened faster, sometimes the progress was slower. But being OK with that, it was difficult, you know?
It's still difficult even now because even though I'm definitely in the best shape in my life, I was like, why do I still see a gut (laughs)? And then I have to check myself. Oh yeah, you did have a kid. I have to put stuff in perspective. It's hard to do that sometimes but you have to. Honestly, the biggest word that I could say is just acceptance of where you are and having a goal and you're just doing what you can. Put one foot in front of the other.