Taylor Townsend, a 116th-ranked qualifier from Atlanta, scored the biggest victory of her career Thursday, knocking Wimbledon champion and No. 4 seed Simona Halep out of the US Open with a stunning triumph in Louis Armstrong Stadium.
A big-bodied serve-and-volleyer, Townsend, 23, achieved her 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) triumph by shortening the points and carving up the court with angled volleys.
Townsend, who had never won a set against Halep in three previous meetings, moves into the third round of the Open for only the second time in her career.
“It’s been a long journey. This gives me so much confidence to know that I can do it,” Townsend said.
The match pivoted on two games in the third set, Townsend breaking Halep, a 27-year-old Romanian, at love to go up 3-2, delivering a deft forehand approach winner on the final point. Halep went out to a 0-40 lead the very next game, but Townsend wound up holding on a scorching overhead winner for 4-2.
Serving for the match at 5-4, Townsend had double-match point at 40-15, before double-faulting and watching Halep whistle a backhand pass down the line for deuce. Halep went on to break back and level the set at 5-5, powered by a winner off a backhand pass.
Halep fought off a break point and held for 6-5, as a reeling Townsend read notes from a black journal on the changeover. She had lost three straight games and her game was unraveling – she hit an overhead into the bottom of the net in the 12th game. Halep had her own match point at 30-40, only to net a return, and Townsend managed to hold to force a match-deciding tiebreak.
At 4-4 of the tiebreaker, Halep overcooked a forehand to give Townsend a 5-4 advantage, and Townsend earned her third match point when Halep’s crosscourt backhand approach drifted wide. One point later, Townsend made her 106th and final charge forward, smoking a forehand volley that Halep grounded into the net, making her the highest-seeded player to get dispatched from the tournament.
“Today, I just played to win,” a tearful Townsend said in an on-court interview. “I just told myself this is an opportunity, go for it. I knew I wasn’t going to beat her from the baseline.”
This article originally appeared in USA Today.