MELBOURNE, Australia — As Taylor Townsend was preparing to return to professional tennis after becoming a mom nearly two years ago, she sought counsel from a couple of pretty good sources: Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters.
Clijsters, who collected three of her four Grand Slam titles as a mother, offered this advice, according to Townsend, a 26-year-old left-hander from Chicago who won her first-round match at the Australian Open: “Really enjoy being a mom, don’t rush and take your time, because you don’t want to come back feeling pressure or anything like that. That was kind of like my mentality when I was coming back: I want to enjoy being a mother. I want to understand my son. I don’t want to feel the pressure of, like, `I have to play.”‘
Townsend gave birth to A.J. in March 2021, and a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Diane Parry of France at Melbourne Park was her first in singles action at a Grand Slam tournament since then.
“My goal is just to try and inspire people and moms to show that you can do whatever you want,” Townsend said. “Having a child doesn’t stop you from hustling and grinding and just being great at whatever you want to do.”
Townsend’s game was too much for Parry: The American never faced a break chance, hit seven aces and won the point on 11 of 12 trips to the net. She compiled 23 winners to just eight for Parry.
It all took only 57 minutes.
“Was a really, really bad day for me,” Parry said. Asked how much of that was her doing or Townsend’s, Parry responded: “A lot of me and also her.”
During the most recent offseason, Townsend took what she called the first “solo vacation” of her life, spending 10 days in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
It worked wonders for her mindset but also reduced the amount of time she spent with A.J., making this trip to Australia a little more difficult for Townsend.
“When I left home, I was pretty sad. … (But) when I leave, it’s incredibly important for me to make the times that I leave count. I talk to him, and before my matches I look at pictures and videos and just remind myself of why I’m doing this and why I’m away, so it means something,” she said. “It really is special to make these moments count and to be able to show the ups and downs. … I’m just trying to be the best example that I can for him, both when he is with me and (when) he is not here. Hopefully making him proud.”