Taylor Townsend overcame a sloppy first set to advance. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — There’s just something about the desert air that suits Taylor Townsend.
The 17-year-old American wild card beat No. 49 Karin Knapp 7-6 (1), 6-1 on Thursday in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open, her first WTA victory since defeating Lucie Hradecka here last year in her tour debut.
Townsend, ranked No. 337, split last season between the junior and senior tours. Her best result came at Wimbledon, where she made the girls’ final and lost to junior No. 1 Belinda Bencic. After falling in the final round of qualifying at the U.S. Open, she finished the season on the ITF circuit, going 0-4.
But it’s not necessarily about results for Townsend right now. She is dividing her training between Chicago and Washington, D.C., where she’s coached by Zina Garrison, and says the biggest improvement in her game over the last year has been mental.
“My coaches and I have been stressing being very mentally tough and learning the game, learning how things work,” she said. “We’ve been watching a lot of matches and trying to understand how to play when pressure hits, how to play when you’re up, how to play when you’re down. Things like that.”