Taylor Townsend Keeps Going to the Net, and Keeps Going at the U.S. Open

Taylor Townsend Keeps Going to the Net, and Keeps Going at the U.S. Open

The qualifier Taylor Townsend stunned the reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep on Thursday by rushing to the net 106 times. On Saturday, there was no reason to change what was working.

Townsend, ranked 116th, came to the net 75 times in her 7-5, 6-2 win over Sorana Cirstea in Louis Armstrong Stadium, including 53 times on serve-and-volley points. She reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

In her on-court interview after the match, Townsend said she had been surprised to learn how many people had her phone number, based on the congratulations she received on her win over Halep, but had worked to maintain her focus.

“I just tried to keep my head on straight,” Townsend, 23, said. “My coach and I talked about strategy, and just continuing what I did from the last round, and just trying to get better.”

Part of sticking with a strategy of serve-and-volley, Townsend knew, was learning to accept that Cirstea’s powerful passing shots would often go zipping past her, a feeling that can discourage players from continuing to venture forward, particularly on the most pressure-packed points.

“I got passed a lot, but I made a lot as well,” Townsend said. “So I have to continue to do that.”

Cirstea, ranked 106th, attributed her loss less to Townsend’s unusual tactics, which she was prepared for, and more to failing to capitalize on opportunities, such as a 3-1 lead she had held in the first set.

“She has a unique game: This is the beauty of tennis,” Cirstea said. “You have to adapt very quick. I think today I started well, I was able to execute what I worked on yesterday, and the plan I had with the coach.”

Townsend was playing in the third round of a Grand Slam for just the second time, after losing at this stage of the 2013 French Open. She told the crowd this would only be the beginning for her, saying she planned to “ride this thing all the way.”

After beating two Romanian players in a row, Townsend will face a third player with Romanian roots in the fourth round: Bianca Andreescu, whose parents moved from Romania to Canada before she was born.

The 15th-seeded Andreescu also just reached the fourth round of a major for the first time, with a 6-4, 6-4 win over the 19th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, a two-time U.S. Open finalist. Andreescu held a 3-0 lead in the second set, a back-and-forth frame that included seven breaks of serve.

Andreescu, who started the season ranked 152nd, has been the most dominant player on tour this year when healthy; her win Saturday improved her record to 39-4, which includes a remarkable 7-0 record against top-10 opponents. She won hardcourt titles at Toronto and Indian Wells, but also missed a few months with a shoulder injury.

Townsend was joined in the fourth round by another American outside the top 100, when 141st-ranked Kristie Ahn beat the 2017 French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko, 7-5, 6-3. Ahn, a wild card, will next play the 25th-seeded Elise Mertens, who beat Andrea Petkovic, 6-3, 6-3. Ahn beat Mertens at a tournament in San Jose, Calif., in early August.

The 26th-seeded Julia Görges was also an early winner on Saturday, dominating the seventh-seeded Kiki Bertens 6-2, 6-3. Görges will face No. 23 Donna Vekic in the fourth round.

No. 13 Belinda Bencic moved on to the round of 16 when her opponent, Anett Kontaveit, withdrew from their match with an illness. Bencic will play the winner of the blockbuster match Saturday night between No. 1 Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff.

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