6 min read
After an 18-month break, Taylor Townsend signed up for her first tournament to kick off her comeback as one of the newest moms on tour. Her first event of choice? A UTR Pro Tennis Tour $25K held at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Coming Back with a Win
During the week of Feb. 28, Townsend stormed through the field, winning all of six of her round-robin and playoff matches in straight sets. It was her first tournament since the 2020 US Open, first pro title since 2019, and first time playing as a mom after having her son Aydn in March 2021.
“I have the medal hanging up on my mantle because it meant so much to me,” she told Universal Tennis. “It took so much to get to that place where I was able to compete again, and I didn’t think that going into that tournament that I was going to win it.”
“I’m extremely competitive so I went in there wanting to win, but then being able to execute it for six matches, I was so proud of myself on so many levels,” Townsend said. “All of the emotions poured out because it just meant so much and Aiden was with me. So it was great to have him there as well to share that moment, too. I really had a great time.”
Townsend’s name should be very familiar. The 26-year-old American was the No. 1 junior in the world and has been ranked as high as No. 61 on the WTA Tour. She reached the fourth round of the 2019 US Open, with a stunning victory over Simona Halep. Teaming with Asia Muhammad, she appeared in the 2020 US Open doubles semifinals, when she was pregnant with Aidan. Her WTA singles ranking at the time was No. 84.
Reaping the Rewards of the PTT
Townsend became more aware of Universal Tennis during the pandemic, particularly in 2021 when she was on maternity leave.
“What caught my eye was how many opportunities Universal Tennis had to play within the States,” Townsend said. “When I was constructing my schedule, I wanted matchplay to see what happens [while] playing three, four days in a row because I hadn’t done it in almost a year and a half. So let me see how my body holds up.”
She came away from her PTT debut impressed and the unique format really stood out.
“The people who have put the PTT together have thought of the struggles of people who are playing on the ITF circuit are facing,” Townsend said. “You can use the PTT to offset those struggles, with matchplay and the ability to get guaranteed prize money over a few weeks in a row.”
On the PTT, players are split into groups based on UTR Rating and guaranteed at least three matches. Winners advance to the knockout playoffs, which begin at the quarterfinal stage.
“Contrary to what we’re used to on the ITF tour where if you lose you’re out, you have the ability with a round robin to play multiple matches,” Townsend said. “I think it’s amazing because at least you get the chance to get to see where you’re at and to keep playing.”
Returning to the Grand Slam Stage
Following her strong PTT debut in Bradenton, Townsend would go on win an ITF W100 in Charleston in late April. Less than five months into her comeback, her WTA ranking is up to No. 330 and her PTT ranking (based on UTR Rating) is No. 110.
At Roland Garros, she teamed up with Madison Keys to go all the way to the semifinals.
“I’ve been working incredibly hard, mentally, physically, emotionally, to kind of get myself to get back to that level,” Townsend said. “The Grand Slams are the pinnacle of what tennis players are trying to reach and to be able to do well there, that’s the thing that kind of shows if you are at this level or not.”
The run matched her best Grand Slam doubles run in 2020 but now everything is different with little Adyn in tow.
“It’s so emotionally fulfilling and has just given me so much more purpose,” Townsend said. “After I lost my singles [in Paris], I was super bummed out but then just FaceTiming him, I was just like, ‘OK, it’s not that big of a deal.’ He has given me a little bit more perspective.”
She’s taking her new perspective into the U.S. hard-court swing, which starts with the WTA 500 in San Jose and culminates with the US Open in New York City, where Adyn will be along for the ride. This Sunday, she’ll play an exhibition match against Coco Gauff at the Atlanta Open, her hometown tournament.
“I’m definitely not done yet,” Townsend said. “It’s only the first part of the season for me; I’m really looking forward to the US Open series and how I’ll do there. Just a lot of hours and hours of mental, physical, and emotional training and not only trying to be a better tennis player but also trying to be a better person and to understand myself more so that I can rely on myself while I’m out there and know that I’ve got my own back.
“It felt great to be out there and I had fun, but I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”
About the UTR Pro Tennis Tour
The PTT is open to players with a UTR Ranking of 200-2000, and wild cards can be awarded to those players with a UTR Ranking of 1-199 or above 2000. Every PTT event creates matchplay opportunities for up-and-coming, collegiate, and pro players thanks to a unique round-robin format. At every event, a group round-robin stage is followed by a World Cup-style playoff, guaranteeing multiple matches and counting all results towards the UTR Rating, the most accurate rating system in tennis. Every PTT event offers 4-5 matches and a minimum of $20,000 in prize money with an earnings guarantee for every participant.
For more information about UTR PTT and to see all of the results, click here.