According to the Journal‘s report, USTA coaches declined to pay her travel expenses to compete in the U.S. Open and told her they wouldn’t fund tournament appearances until she improved her fitness.
“Pretty much all the other federations, if they had a No. 1 junior in the world, they would kind of break their backs to bring them to whatever they needed to go to,” Townsend said of the USTA’s directive. “I’m not going to sit here and say I’m the fastest person or the most agile, because I’m not,” she added. “There’s definitely room for improvement, but it’s personal opinion.”
Townsend, an effervescent 16-year-old native of Chicago, is part of the USTA’s funded development program.
After losing in the first round of a professional event in Vancouver this summer, USTA officials told her she was regressing and asked her to return to the USTA’s training base in Boca Raton, Fla., for several weeks to get in better shape.
Townsend, 16, and her mother, Sheila, confirmed that they had to pay their own expenses to come to Flushing Meadows. But Patrick McEnroe, who directs the U.S.T.A. player development program, said Friday that there had been a misunderstanding and that the association had always intended to reimburse the Townsends. He said the U.S.T.A. did not oppose Townsend’s appearance at the Open and tried to clarify the organization’s concerns about her development.
Sheila Townsend said that she believed fitness was an important ingredient of developing a player, but that many players of differing physical characteristics compete at a high level.
“Serena doesn’t look like Sharapova,” she said.
“It was definitely shocking, I have to say,” Townsend said of their recommendation. “I was actually very upset. I cried. I was actually devastated.”
Townsend said when she returned to Boca Raton, she hit only three times a week for 45 minutes when previously she had trained and played twice a day.
She said she disagreed with the decision but had not decided to break ties with the USTA, especially because of her close affiliation with USTA coach Kathy Rinaldi.
“It’s not by a miracle that I got to No. 1,” Townsend said. “I worked hard just like everyone else and I feel like an opportunity was taken from me.”