Teen Tennis Prodigy Taylor Townsend: 'My Body Is A Total Gift'

Taylor Townsend, of the U.S, returns the ball to France's Alize Cornet during their second round match of  the French Open te
Taylor Townsend, of the U.S, returns the ball to France's Alize Cornet during their second round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium, in Paris, France, Wednesday, May 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

By Michael Roddy

LONDON, June 25 (Reuters) - Taylor Townsend's hopes of repeating her French Open success at Wimbledon were snuffed out by Klara Koukalova but for her, the first round defeat had nothing to do with the issue that has made her a poster child for heavier-set women.

The 18-year-old Chicago native, who beat 20th-seeded Frenchwoman Alize Cornet at Roland Garros last month before losing to Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round, said she was definitely "not pleased" with her 7-5 6-2 defeat on Tuesday.

"I'm just going to take what I've learned over the past two slams, I'm going to go back home," she told reporters after losing to her Czech opponent. "I'm going to work extremely hard and get ready for the U.S. Open Series."

She disputed claims that have dogged her since the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) asked her to sit out the 2012 U.S. Open junior tournament because of her weight, that extra poundage had anything to do with it.

"I mean, as far as fitness is concerned, I have a great team and staff on my side that have pushed and helped me and helped me understand and realize that my body is a total gift," Townsend added.

Veteran coach Nick Bollettieri, who founded a famous tennis academy in Florida that helped launch the careers of many grand slam winners, said players like Townsend were helping to modify the old tennis rule that you had to be "slim and mean".

"Here's what I think - this rule still applies today but what you have to do is take a look at each student and their body type," Bollettieri told Reuters on Wednesday.


"Overall, when you carry a big frame I would say 99 out of 100 times it's going to take a toll eventually, but remember, some people are built this way, they inherited that way."

The 82-year-old American gave the example of Boris Becker who he said had skied and worked out so that in the end "he didn't carry a lot of excess weight".

He also noted that appearance is important to sponsors who want a person to represent "not only the sport, but life, physical fitness, the impression we give to children".

"I would say that my dealings over 60 years is that not carrying any excess weight is probably considered the way to go," he said. "But I would say it's got to come from her."

Townsend countered that physical strength was a positive aspect of her game and not something that hindered her.

"I realize that I'm very strong and I can do a lot of things athletically that probably many people can't do. I train with 250-pound (113 kg) football players and we do the same stuff," she added.

Townsend, who split from her USTA coaches after the snub and now trains with 1990 Wimbledon finalist Zina Garrison, said she had received "a lot of positive commentary and feedback from a lot of people saying that I am an inspiration, someone that they're looking up to and that they're proud of". (Editing by John O'Brien)