Taylor Townsend rolls into Aussie final

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Taylor Townsend had a busy day at the Australian Open on Friday.

The first assignment for the 15-year-old was competing in the junior girls’ semifinals, where she defeated fellow American Krista Hardebeck 7-6 (3), 6-4 to move into her first Grand Slam junior final.

And she wasn’t finished yet.

Townsend also had the girls’ doubles final to contest with partner and good friend Gabrielle Andrews, a 15-year-old Southern Californian. The two Americans were stretched to a match tiebreak before walking off with a 5-7, 7-5 (10-6) win over Irina Khromacheva of Russia and Danka Kovinic of Montenegra to become the 2012 Australian Open girls’ doubles champions.

“Oh my God, when I got in the locker room today I was like, ‘What just happened?’ ” Townsend said. “I’m just so excited. It’s literally a dream come true, and winning the doubles tops it all off.”

Now all Townsend needs to do is polish off fourth-seeded Yulia Putintseva, 17, of Russia in the singles final on Saturday to take home two Australian Open winner’s trophies.

Putintseva, who upended second-seeded Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 7-5, 6-1 in the other semifinal, is making her second trip to a Grand Slam junior final after reaching that stage at the 2010 U.S. Open.

Townsend, who left her Atlanta-area home when she was 14 to train at the United States Tennis Association’s Training Center in Boca Raton, Fla., is a crafty left-hander who originally started out playing right-handed simply because she was mimicking her parents and sister, who were all righties.

Eventually it was found that Townsend would lose her balance when going for a right-handed forehand, so it was decided to switch her to her natural southpaw tendencies when she was about 8.

“At first I whiffed every ball with my left hand,” she said. “But then it got better.”

While she fell short against the 17-year-old Hardebeck 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of last week’s Australian Open tuneup tournament, the Loy Yang Power Traralgon International, Townsend was determined not to let that happen again.

“Last week I felt like I kind of settled because it was a warm-up tournament,” Townsend said. “It was very windy and I got into a rally, bang-bang game with her, and that’s not how I play and that’s not how I am going to win against her.

“But today I came out and fought really hard against her. The biggest thing was keeping myself pumped.”

She definitely played Hardebeck tougher on Friday, although she did have some bumpy moments. In particular, she fell behind 4-2 in the second set, but she amped up her serve-and-volley game to turn things around.

As for Putintseva, Townsend lost their recent match at the Eddie Herr International at the end of last year. That match was on clay, which is a surface that favors the Russian more than Townsend.

“I know a little bit about Yulia,” Townsend said. “She’s a very tough opponent and she tries to get in your head with her (yelling), ‘C’mon.’ I’ll just have to keep the pressure on.”

Whether Townsend takes home two trophies or one, she’ll leave the Australian Open with a promising future ahead.