Commentary

Taylor Townsend getting a taste

American prospect hopes junior success will pay off in the near future

Updated: July 5, 2013, 6:42 PM ET
By Melissa Isaacson | ESPN.com

LONDON -- Taylor Townsend can hardly help herself.

The 17-year-old Chicago native and Boca Raton resident has a chance to become the first American to win Wimbledon's junior girls' title since Chanda Rubin in 1992. She has taken more than a peek around the various Grand Slam junior tournaments in which she has played and imagines what it might feel like to be in the main draw one day.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Townsend
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty ImagesTaylor Townsend is playing for the juniors title. Not a bad way to warm up for the big leagues one day.
"That's one of the reasons why it's so nice to play the junior Slams because it gives you a little taste of the environment and it really gives you something to look forward to later down the road, especially if you really want it," Townsend said.

"It's great incentive for me personally to say, 'OK, yeah, you're here in the juniors but you could be in the big locker room' or 'You could one day get the royal treatment. You could actually get a car wherever you want.' It's the little perks of being in the pros, but also playing on Centre Court and all the things that go along with it."

Townsend showed Friday that she may not be far off, defeating No. 2 seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia 2-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 to become the first American in the Wimbledon junior girls' final since Brie Rippner in 1997. Townsend will face top-seeded Belinda Bencic from Switzerland on Saturday.

Bencic defeated Townsend 2-6, 6-2, 9-7 in the French Open junior quarterfinals in June.

"She's a tough opponent and she's playing very well," Townsend said. "We had a grind, 9-7 in the third in the quarterfinals of the French, so I'm looking forward to playing her on the grass."

Friday's 2-hour, 20-minute match was a grind as well.

"I think one of my strengths is how I compete and how I fight on the court," she said. "I try to work on it every match and try to get better and better at it. … She made some mistakes and I pretty much just took advantage of it. It was very tight and it was a matter of points here and there and I was able to execute or just stay in the points, so I'm really glad.

"I look forward to playing her on the tour. I think she'll make it."

Raymond and Soares move on to mixed finals

Lisa Raymond and Bruno Soares, in only their second tournament together since pairing at the French Open, advanced to Wimbledon's mixed doubles final with their workmanlike 6-4, 6-4 semifinal victory Friday over John Peers and Ashleigh Barty.

"The thing with mixed doubles, you can never truly feel you're in command," Raymond said. "You can be up a set and a break and it can change on a dime. Momentum can definitely change. But Bruno and I have been playing well the whole tournament, so it felt good when he stepped up to the line to serve it up."

Raymond won the 2012 Wimbledon mixed doubles title with Mike Bryan, but Bryan wanted to conserve his energy for doubles, where he and brother Bob are now one one victory away from becoming the first team in Open era tennis to simultaneously hold all four Grand Slam titles.

Raymond, winner of a combined 11 Grand Slam titles in women's doubles and mixed, said teaming up on the fly with Soares has not been that big an adjustment.

"That's the nature of mixed doubles," she said. "It's not like doubles where you go out there and practice with your partner and you get to know each other and your patterns. You just kind of get thrown out there and its ready, set, go."

Raymond and Soares will meet French Open runners-up Daniel Nestor and Kristina Mladenovic in Sunday's final.

Melissa Isaacson

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for espnW.com, ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 31-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune before joining ESPN in 2009. Isaacson has also covered tennis since 1986.