American tennis player Taylor Townsend stunned the tennis world with her second-round victory over compatriot Jessica Pegula at the 2023 Italian Open. Townsend, ranked 168th in the world, defeated the World No. 3 in a grueling three-setter 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. This was Townsend’s second top-10 win of her career, with her first coming against then-World No. 4 Simona Halep in the 2019 US Open second round.
In the match against Pegula, Townsend trailed 0-2 in the first set but won seven consecutive games to take the first set 6-2 and lead 1-0 in the second. Pegula mounted a comeback to level the match and force a third set by taking the second 6-3. Townsend secured an early break in the third to go up 3-0 and won the set 6-3, in a match that lasted 1 hour and 55 minutes.
ESPN tennis analyst Brad Gilbert was impressed by Townsend’s victory and voiced his amazement on social media. “Just seeing live scores wow (star-eyed emoji) what a win for Taylor Townsend taking out Jpeg (Jessica Pegula), interesting she now has 3-1 H2H,” he tweeted. Townsend now leads the head-to-head against Jessica Pegula by 3-1. The defeat in Rome was Pegula’s first opening match loss at any event since the 2021 BNP Paribas Open.
Townsend, who is making her Rome debut, will face China’s Wang Xiyu in the third round on Saturday, May 13. This is only the second time she has reached the third round at a WTA 1000 event.
Townsend hit a career milestone on Monday as she broke into the top 10 of the women’s doubles rankings by reaching World No. 6. The American was ecstatic about her achievement, considering her difficult journey to that milestone. “I was in tears, because I thought about the journey of what it took to get here and I was like, ‘Holy You-Know-What!’” she told Tennis Channel’s Prakash Amritraj.
“I saw [the new rankings] and I was like, ‘Oh my god I’m so excited! Woohoo, go Taylor!’ And then I made a Reel, and I was literally bawling, crying,” she added.
Townsend returned to the WTA tour in April 2022 after giving birth to her son, Adyn Aubrey Johnson, in March 2021. Due to her long break from tennis, the American was unranked in the WTA singles ranking. Townsend and her doubles partner Leylah Fernandez reached the 2023 Madrid Open semifinals, which resulted in her career-high doubles ranking.
Townsend is having a great debut at the 2023 Italian Open with four victories in a row (including qualifiers) and an upset against compatriot Jessica Pegula. She will look to continue her impressive run in the tournament and build on her recent success in the doubles rankings.