Townsend goes off on Kamau Murray

It is exceedingly rare to hear or read any player go off on a top-level coach.

Even after a player and coach part ways, the public version is typically, “Thanks for all the hard work, we’ll always be friends, mutual decision, bla bla bla.”

Sometimes, they should. 

Enter 23-year-old American Taylor Townsend, who went off on a solid rant against fellow Chicagoan Kamau Murray Monday morning on her Instagram feed.

Murray is the former coach of Sloane Stephens, who then coached Monica Puig – only to leave Puig and return to Team Sloane just before the US Open this year.

What Townsend is objecting to is the inclusion of her name in this promotion for an upcoming coaches’ conference, characterized as a player Murray is coaching (although the appearance of “present tense” is likely a matter of poor copywriting, more than anything).

From her Instagram:

“I can no longer remain silent while (Murray) continues to deceive professional players, aspiring players, sponsors, and the tennis community by misrepresenting himself and taking credit for things he has not done. (Monica Puig) is a recent victim of his deception,” Townsend writes.

(We’ve reached out to both Townsend and Murray for additional comment, and will update as events dictate).

Not her former coach, Townsend claims

Townsend, who got through the qualifying and lost to eventual champion Bianca Andreescu in the fourth round of the US Open this year, goes through the roster of the coaches she has had during her career.

She characterizes Murray as an “assistant coach” during the period she worked with with former Fed Cup captain Zina Garrison, from 2013-15. 

In other words, she has issues with Murray portraying himself as having coached her. And, from the sound of it, this has been an ongoing issue.

“I did not to go public in the past because I had hoped to resolve this matter directly with Kamau Murray. And I will no longer remain silent while he continues his lies and false advertisement. I did not give Kamau consent to use my name and likeness for his ongoing personal and business monetary gain,” she writes.

“Kamau is currently stating that he is my coach in promotion of the upcoming USPTA Illinois Mini Conference on November 17, 2019 held at XS Athletic Club. His latest actions have prompted me to expose his past and ongoing pattern of deceit. If you are a fan of mine, please support me and have my back regarding this matter.”

View this post on Instagram

If you know me, then you know that this is NOT something that I would normally do, but I feel that it’s time to set the record straight about Chicago’s Kamau Murray of XS Tennis Academy. I can no longer remain silent while he continues to deceive professional players, aspiring players, sponsors, and the tennis community by misrepresenting himself and taking credit for things he has not done. @monicaace93 is a recent victim of his deception. I started my tennis with Donald Young SR. and Illona Young, who taught me to play tennis from 4 years old and assisted in me being number 1 in junior in the world. From 2010- August 2013, I trained at the USTA under the instruction of Kathy Rinaldi and briefly Juan Todero. Zina Garrison was my primary coach from September 2013- March 2015. Zina brought Kamau on board as an assistant coach during that time. I did not to go public in the past because I had hoped to resolve this matter directly with Kamau Murray. I will no longer remain silent while he continues his lies and false advertisement. I did not give Kamau consent to use my name and likeness for his ongoing personal and business monetary gain. Kamau is currently stating that he is my coach in promotion of the upcoming USPTA Illinois Mini Conference on November 17, 2019 held at XS Athletic Club. His latest actions have prompted me to expose his past and ongoing pattern of deceit. If you are a fan of mine, please support me and have my back regarding this matter. In doing this, I am clearing my conscience and telling another piece of my story! Thank you so much! I love you guys! 💕

A post shared by TAYLOR TOWNSEND✨❤ (@tay_taytownsend) on

Townsend claims false advertising

The conference in question takes place at Murray’s XS Academy in Chicago.  

(They might have spell-checked the name of his other notable student, SloanE Stephens, a little more carefully).

The same conference was held there a year ago (with the same typo).

Townsend might not have the resumé Stephens has. But she and her lifelong friend Donald Young, whose father Donald Sr. coaches her, are the most notable pro players to come out of the Chicago area. And her name carries some heft there.

The Puig-Stephens switcharoo

Late this summer, Murray found himself in another tight spot on the public-relations side when he returned to Team Sloane just before the US Open.

In doing so – at least according to Puig – he left her high and dry after she had hired him on before the Indian Wells tournament in late February. From what we were told at the time, she was pretty devastated.

Townsend
Fun moments on the US Open practice courts, just days after Murray returned to Team Sloane, when they practiced on the court right next to his former player, Monica Puig. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

The last part of the first Stephens-Murray association, late in 2018, seemed a little complicated as Murray did not accompany Stephens to Singapore for the WTA Tour Finals, citing prior commitments.

In January, it was announced that they were “on a break”. Then Murray took the job with Puig which, from what we’re told, did not sit well with Stephens.

Kamau Murray joins Team Puig

Round two not a success so far

Stephens had a brief trial with longtime WTA Tour coach Sven Groeneveld in the spring. But for the most part in 2019, she didn’t have a full-time coach until Murray returned.

WTA Musical Chairs, Part MMCXI: Murray dumps Puig for Stephens

Their second go-round was not a particularly productive one. Stephens lost in the first round at the US Open to Anna Kalinskaya, a qualifier ranked No. 127.

She lost her first match in Osaka to Camila Giorgi, then lost to Petra Kvitova in the third round in Wuhan. After a second-round loss in Beijing a months ago, she wrapped up her season, failing to qualify for the WTA Tour Finals.

Stephens’ year-end ranking, because of the loss of those points from reaching the final in Singapore a year ago, will be No. 25.

Tennis (Life) Birthdays – April 16, 2019

Taylor Townsend (USA), 23

It’s hard to believe Townsend is only 23, as it feels like she’s been around forever.

But people still pay particular interest to her progress and results – arguably a lot more more than the average player ranked No. 84 with a career high of No. 61.

There are a few reasons for that.

One is that she’s a talented American who plays an out-of-the box game. She – !!!! – even … serves and volleys in doubles.

And often in singles.

The other is that when she was coming up as a top junior, there was a lot of nastiness involving the USTA about her weight. It seemed fairly out of bounds for a young girl. But that’s what was happening.

She’s been through it, as she told the New York Times two years ago in Miami.

“In this sport, if you’ve been on tour for three or four years and you don’t reach a certain pinnacle in your career, you’re doing bad, you’re old or you’re washed up,” she said, aged all of 20. “I’ve heard that so many times, I don’t even think about that stuff anymore. I just take every year, every match that I play, the ups and downs, as an experience. This sport makes you feel like you’re old at 25, but in life, you’re not old.”

These days, the lefthander seems to have found sort of a comfort zone in that 50-100 range. Not that she couldn’t, shouldn’t be better. But she seems just as happy playing the top-level ITFs on Har-Tru in the U.S. as she does anywhere else.

Watching Townsend work her way to the net in singles is one of the underrated pleasures in the women’s game. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

She has been working with the father of Donald Young, Donald Young Sr., just as she did when she was a kid in Chicago. and she even played mixed doubles with Junior at the US Open last year.

This week, she’s the No. 1 seed in the $80,000 event in Dothan, Alabama. In all, though, she’ll only play two of the four events this month. But they’ve been good to her. She’s earned some Grand Slam main-draw wild cards that way.

Bouchard-Townsend swept Roehampton and Wimbledon juniors in 2012 – and had a good time at the banquet, too. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Townsend reached the third round in Charleston a few weeks ago, upsetting No. 7 seed Julia Goerges in the second round before losing to Belinda Bencic.

(Scroll down: this is a recurring theme).

She doesn’t have any big plans for the clay-court season, arriving in Europe just a week before, to play Nürnberg, the week before the French Open.

Grass is her thing: Nottingham, Birmingham, Eastbourne and Wimbledon are on the schedule this year.

Another reason Townsend got so much attention was because she was so good as a junior. During her generation, top junior prospects from the U.S. weren’t exactly plentiful.

Townsend won a TON of junior matches. A lot in doubles, but nearly as many in singles. She defeated Yulia Putintseva to win the Australian Open juniors at age 15. She won the doubles, too.

There were a couple of players she had trouble with – Bencic was one. Townsend played just three junior events in 2013 (and only in singles): the French, Roehampton and Wimbledon.

She lost to Bencic all three times: 9-7 in the third in the French Open quarterfinals, and 6-4 in the third in the Wimbledon final.

The previous year, 2012, she lost to Canadian Françoise Abanda at both Roehampton and junior Wimbledon.

These two were pretty pumped after winning the Wimbledon junior doubles in 2012. Bouchard also won the singles. Their careers since then have been full of ups and downs. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

But she won the junior Wimbledon doubles in 2012 with the two-years-older Genie Bouchard. They defeated Ana Konjuh and … Bencic.

She also won the Orange Bowl doubles and the junior US Open doubles.

By April, 2012, she was the No. 1 junior in the world.

Mackenzie McDonald (USA), 24

Townsend

McDonald is only a year older than Townsend. And yet, it seems he’s just a rookie on the scene.

At No. 60, his current ranked is just one above his career high, reached two weeks ago.

The difference, of course, is that McDonald was a good, but not great junior. Although when Townsend was No. 1 in the girls’, he was at No. 12 in the boys’.

He reached the Australian Open boys’ semifinal out of the qualifying. But he lost in the first round of singles at all of the other majors that year. His ranking came largely from being a dominant player nationally, at U.S. events.

Knowing he probably wasn’t ready, he opted to go the college route. McDonald attended UCLA. He played for three years, and was all-American three straight years.

After he became the first male player in 15 years to win both the NCAA singles and doubles (with Martin Redlicki) titles, he wrapped up his college career. It was impressive. But in pro tennis, it also means you fall off the radar.

So in essence, he’s only been a pro for 2 1/2 years.

So far, his best Slam effort was a fourth round at Wimbledon last year, where he lost to Milos Raonic. Earlier in 2018, he played a crazy match against Grigor Dimitrov, ultimately going down 8-6 in the fifth set.

Wimbledon flashback: Bouchard, Townsend win junior dubs

WIMBLEDON – Have five years really already passed? 

The day after Canadian Genie Bouchard won the 2012 junior girls’ singles title with a routine victory over Elina Svitolina, she took to the court again.

This time, she teamed up with American Taylor Townsend to play the junior girls’ doubles final.

You look at the roster of their opponents and you can see that getting to a Slam doubles final is no guarantee of anything.

None of those players have really broken through yet.

One who is here this week is Bouchard’s countrywoman, Françoise Abanda, who qualified for the singles for the very first time.

Abanda was just 15 back in 2012, three years younger than Bouchard. And she also reached the singles semi-final, losing to Svitolina in three sets.

flashback

But those opponents in the girls’ doubles final? They were just babies, but it was clear they were going places.

Bouchard

Belinda Bencic was 15; Ana Konjuh was still just 14.

Teenage excitement

Bouchard and Townsend, a few years older, defeated them fairly routinely. And they were pretty excited about it.

The best part of this victory was afterwards. The two giggly teenagers (yes, life was once not so serious, and none of those career setbacks had happened yet) discussed the whole motivation behind the doubles win.

Bouchard had already been to the Wimbledon Champions Ball the previous year; she won the girls’ doubles with Townsend’s countrywoman Grace Min.

So this title was all about getting Townsend there, too. The idea that there was a big room where the dresses and shoes were all lined up to choose from, and hair and makeup specialists awaited, was an exceptional notion.

Here’s a long-lost little audio clip of the two young ladies talking after the victory. Just came across it today.