By Frank Pingue
NEWYORK (Reuters) – American qualifier Taylor Townsend took a nothing-to-lose attitude into her U.S. Open clash with Simona Halep on Thursday and quickly found her comfort zone at the net to pull off the upset of the week.
Townsend, who failed to win a set in three previous meetings with Halep, delivered an aggressive, net-rushing style of play that frustrated the Romanian fourth seed and secured her first career win over a top 10 player.
“I feel like a lot of the times when I was playing her, I played, like, not to lose. A player like that, she’s just way too solid, has had so much experience, that’s not going to fly,” Townsend said after her 2-6 6-3 7-6(4) victory.
“I was just, like, ‘what do you have to lose?’ I’m just going to go for it, I’m going to do what I do best where I’m the most comfortable, which is at the net.”
Townsend made a second home at the net, which she approached a staggering 106 times during the match to come away with 64 of those points.
Halep, who arrived at Flushing Meadows looking to become the first woman since Serena Williams in 2012 to follow a Wimbledon win with a U.S. Open triumph, grew more frustrated as she was unable to come up with the necessary passing shots.
“It was a little bit weird because never happens on tour, to have an opponent that is coming for actually every ball to the net,” said Halep, who has not reached the third round in New York since 2016.
“I tried to play body, I tried to play on the sides. I made also some mistakes.
“Also I didn’t go through the court that well. I was waiting behind. Sometimes I thought that she’s going to hit strong, but was little bit softer. So I didn’t have the rhythm.”
Halep managed to break Townsend and force a tiebreaker but the 23-year-old American held steady and sealed the deal on her third match point when the Romanian sent a backhand into the net.
Townsend said her decision to dedicate herself to play at the net against was not a last-minute adjustment to her gameplan but rather something she has always done.
“I always enjoyed coming to the net,” said Townsend. “It’s always a fine line, especially as you move up and through the levels, that you have to kind of hone in and have things that you do well.
“You have strengths, but you have to be solid from a certain point because these players are just too good. The level only
“I think it was really great confirmation that this style of play works, that I can continue to do it.“Up next for Townsend in her first third round appearance at the U.S. Open, will be another Romanian, Sorana Cirstea, who beat Spain’s Aliona Bolsova earlier on Thursday.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Ken Ferris/Nick Mulvenney)