MELBOURNE, Australia -- Taylor Townsend made a tearful promise to herself and her 2-year-son Adyn when she packed her bags in December to her long-haul flight to Australia. If she was going to leave him for a month to go to work, she better make it worth it.
Just over two weeks into the season, the 26-year-old American is making good on that promise. After picking up back-to-back doubles titles in Adelaide to start the year, Townsend earned her first Slam singles win as a mom at the Australian Open. Townsend beat the heat and France's Diane Parry 6-1, 6-1 in the first round.
"When I leave, it's incredibly important for me to make the times that I leave count," Townsend told reporters in Melbourne. "I talk to [Adyn], and before my matches I look at pictures and videos and just remind myself of why I'm doing this and why I'm away, so it means something.
"It really is special to make these moments count and to be able to show the ups and downs. Like, the way that my singles started in the first match of the season (she lost 6-0, 6-0 in Adelaide qualifying) compared to this one, like, it just is in a short amount of time for me.
"It just shows [people] to continue to work and those results don't define you. You just have to keep your head down and continue to push on."
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Getting back on the road means going back to work for Townsend. Through her pregnancy and comeback, she has sought advice from Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters, and Victoria Azarenka. As much as the notion of chasing dreams and glory and unfulfilled potential in sports can be a romantic ideal, Townsend is candid about the financial realities. The fact is, she needs to get back on tour to win matches and earn money, just like any other working mom.
"I want to enjoy being a mother. I want to understand my son. I don't want to feel the pressure of I have to play.
"You have to take into consideration that the financial situation of everyone is different. My financial situation versus Kim's [Clijsters] financial situation versus Serena's versus Vika's, we're in different circles. By a certain time, I need to start playing so I can start making some money again. I need to start replenishing the pot."
Townsend said her success at the US Open in 2019 and 2020 gave her a financial cushion to take time off after Adyn was born.
"You can't be naïve to those things. My bank account and Serena's bank account, very different," Townsend said.
"Even in that aspect of my comeback and going back on the road, I have a nanny. I have someone to be able to watch him, but I don't have the flexibility to be able to take someone else on the road all the time so that A.J. can travel with me.
"So it's just those ups and downs and sacrifices that I have to make for my personal situation, and hopefully as this year progresses, things can change."
But the former junior No.1 isn't here to just fill a draw and collect a paycheck. In order to get the best from herself, the sacrifices extend beyond the occasional business trip to a tournament. Her friends and family play a big role in helping Townsend free up the bandwidth to focus on tennis.
For the first time in her life, Townsend took an actual vacation during her abbreviated offseason. She headed to Dubai and Abu Dhabi to clear her mind and re-evaluate her career. When she returned, she had a written list of concrete goals and motivation to give to her coach.
"My goal is just to try and inspire people and moms to show that you can do whatever you want. Having a child doesn't stop you from hustling and grinding and just being great at whatever you want to do.
"I'm just trying to be the best example that I can for him both when he is with me and when he is not here. Hopefully making him proud."