Unable to recapture the success she had enjoyed at the junior level, Taylor Townsend knew earlier this year she’d have to change something in her tennis life. Being routed by Simona Halep at Miami in March was the catalyst that drove Townsend, 23, to approach Halep for advice. Halep generously obliged.
“She didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t know, but it was good to hear it from another player, someone I just played, played a couple of times. Especially someone who is at such a high level, has accomplished so much,” Townsend said. “I’m not saying that everything she said I implemented into my training, but it was definitely in the back of my head to remember what she said and also remember why I asked, what drove me to ask that question, kind of that hunger and desire to get better.”
On Thursday, Halep became a victim of Townsend’s rekindled hunger. In the biggest upset of this year’s U.S. Open, a confident Townsend went to the net early and often and outplayed Halep — the current Wimbledon champion — to earn a 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory in a second-round match at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
That wasn’t much of a thank-you to Halep. “Next time, I will not say anything,” she said, smiling.
The triumph was a long time coming for Townsend, who became teary-eyed during a post-match interview.
“I’ve always been this person. I think for some years I was lost, lost in a sea of a lot of stuff. But it’s nice to be able to come up to the surface and float, eventually swim,” she said. “I feel like a lot of the times when I was playing her, I played not to lose. A player like that, she’s just way too solid, has had so much experience, that’s not going to fly. 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.’ ”
Two other top-10 women’s seeds were eliminated Thursday, starting with Andrea Petkovich’s 6-4, 6-2 upset of No. 6 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic. “She played great. She moved pretty well, as well,” Kvitova said. “I had my chances, of course, but I was always missing little bit of the last things.”
Also, Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan dismissed No. 9 Aryna Sabalenka 6-3, 7-6 (3). American Sofia Kenin, the No. 20 seed, advanced to the third round with a 7-6 (4), 6-0 victory over Laura Siegemund of Germany. Kenin was born in Russia and grew up in Florida, but she loves New York and the feeling is mutual. She said the support of the crowd — and one fan in particular — inspired her to erase an 0-3 deficit in the first set.
“There was this guy that just kept screaming my name and saying, ‘Come on. Hit the return. Take this break,’ ” she said. “I’m, like, ‘OK, I’m trying.’ It’s nowhere else I get this feeling.”
No. 2 men’s seed Rafael Nadal advanced via walkover when Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia withdrew because of a shoulder injury. ... No. 14 John Isner, the top-seeded American man, had 22 aces as he advanced to the third round with a 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) victory over Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany. Isner reached the quarterfinals here last year. Fellow American Denis Kudla also advanced but 18-year-old Jenson Brooksby of Sacramento lost in four sets to No. 17 Nikoloz Basilashvili and No. 6 Alexander Zverev outlasted American Frances Tiafoe, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3. No. 19 Caroline Wozniacki defeated Danielle Collins, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.