For most players, the beginning of their careers is about adding dimension to their games.
For Taylor Townsend, an 18-year-old southpaw blessed with a combination of power, variety and touch, it's all about learning to minimize the physical aspects of the game and working on shot selection.
"We all have our little things we have to work through," Townsend said during her road to the Western & Southern Open second round. "Some people have to build and learn different shots and add to their game. Me, I have to get more simple. For someone who can do a lot, it's a little bit tougher, and my game is going to take a little bit longer to develop because I take a little bit more risk."
Having an awareness that everyone develops in her own time is critical for Townsend, as comparisons can be a dangerous game to play. For instance, Townsend's friend and occasional 2012 junior doubles partner Eugenie Bouchard -- the two won the Wimbledon title together that year -- has already been in this year's Wimbledon women's final, losing to Petra Kvitova.
"I'm setting my own goals, and I'm not going to worry that Genie is in the top 10," Townsend said. "I have to work on me. My current goal is top 100, for sure. I want to be able to make it into [next year's] Australian and the warm-up tournaments in the main draw, no problem. And I'm really close to that goal."
In fact, a few days from the 2014 US Open for which she's received a main-draw wild card, Townsend sits only three spots from being a top-100 player.
Townsend first came to notoriety as a junior in 2012. She started the year in grand fashion by winning the Australian Open junior singles and doubles titles. She went on to add the Wimbledon and US Open doubles trophies to her collection and the honor of being named the 2012 ITF junior girls' champion.
The next season, Townsend, who continued under the coaching guidance of the USTA, played a number of junior events. But after her final appearance in the 2013 Wimbledon juniors, losing 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 to Switzerland's Belinda Bencic, she retired from the junior world.
Townsend was the focus of controversy during the summer of 2012, when it was suggested by some USTA coaching staffers that she was overweight and not in shape despite being the No. 1 junior in the game. She eventually changed her coaching arrangement. This season, she's working with two coaches -- former Wimbledon finalist Zina Garrison and Kamau Murray -- and is dividing her time between Washington, D.C., and her native Chicago. Townsend's 2014 results consist of two ITF $50,000 women's circuit titles and a third-round outing at the French Open.
A teen with great self-assurance, Townsend believes her results will keep improving as she has the opportunity to play more matches.
"I guess I've been surprised by the fact of where I am in comparison to everyone else," Townsend said. "I think, 'Oh my gosh, they're top-20 when I look at the physical ranking of players I'm playing.' But when I get on the court and start playing with them, I'm at the same level. I'm right there."
Townsend has already achieved top-10 stardom with her larger-than-life personality. She is the one smiling, joking and enjoying life. As a junior, she spent 2½ weeks during Wimbledon living in a Roehampton University dorm, where she bought posters and flowers to decorate her room.
"I really, really enjoy traveling, going to different places, seeing different things and meeting different people," Townsend said. "That's the fun part. I always just really settle in and make sure I'm comfortable, then it kind of feels like home."