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UNITED STATES TENNIS ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
May 13, 2016
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us today. We are happy to welcome both Taylor Townsend and Bjorn Fratangelo to the call today. Each of them earned a wild card into the 2016 French Open by winning the USTA Pro Circuit Roland Garros Wild Card Challenge.
Both players' impressive showings in Challenge with Taylor winning the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Charlottesville, and reaching two finals, and Bjorn winning the title at the $50,000 challenger at Savannah and reaching the semifinals of the $100,000 challenger in Sarasota.
Bjorn won the 2011 French Open junior title and is making his Roland Garros main draw debut, while this is Taylor's third French Open main draw appearance.
We will now take questions.
Q. Can you talk about what you think of the Wild Card Challenge process. You both earned them in the past. What are your thoughts on them?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: I think that it's great. I think it's a great opportunity to not only have a lot of really great American players to participate in Pro Circuit events, but it's a chance for everybody to competitively not only have tournaments to play, but have something to work towards. And to have the wild card on the line, it really kind of amps up the competition and it amps up the mindset.
So this is my second year playing the Wild Card Playoffs. I just think it's a really great way, gives us a great chance to play tournaments, get a lot of matches three weeks in a row, and also have the wild card on the line.
I think it's really fair and a great opportunity for all of us American players to be able to compete in this thing.
BJORN FRATANGELO: For me as well, I think it's really good they do this. It's a sure way of who to give the wild card to. It's a pretty clear‑cut way to do it. There's no questions asked. Somebody receives a wild card.
Yeah, I think it's a good way, again, like Taylor said, to make the competition even more cut‑throat, and I think we're both pretty happy to take the wild card here.
Q. You're obviously getting ready for Roland Garros in a couple weeks on the red clay. Talk about the green clay. Do you feel that's still good preparation for the red stuff?
BJORN FRATANGELO: Yeah, I think it's a little bit different. It more or less is the same. You can still slide. The court still can help you if you want it to help you.
It's not exactly the same, but it's what we have in the U.S. and it's all we can really work with.
I think it's not so different as everybody makes it seem, although there are some things that make it a little bit tricky once all the Americans get over to Europe. But I think for the most part it's a good way to prep.
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: I definitely agree. I mean, clay is clay. It is a little bit different, the red clay is a little bit different. But being able to have the opportunity to play three tournaments in a row leading up to the French on the green clay, I think it gives you an opportunity to just practice on all the things you need to practice on as far as building points and constructing points, how to just play a little bit more clay court tennis. I think it gives you a good opportunity to kind of prep yourself.
It also helps you get confident. The red clay isn't that much different. Like Bjorn said, it's a little bit different but it's still the same and it's all we have. Can't really complain.
Q. Both of you were obviously standout junior players and Grand Slam junior champions. Since it's been a few years, have you found the journey in the pros kind of what you expected, not going as fast as you had expected? Your general thoughts in terms of the journey after having been so successful in the juniors.
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: I mean, I think it's been kind of a wake‑up call and a wake‑up process. Obviously having success in the juniors, you feel like you're prepared and ready to take on the Pro Circuit. It definitely isn't what you think it is. At least for me, I'm speaking for myself. I've had to learn a lot of things.
Playing against people who are mentally, physically more mature, who have had way more matches than I have, who have experienced different situations on court than I have, it's a totally different level.
Yes, obviously you want immediate success, but that's pretty unrealistic. It definitely takes a couple of years for you to really start to understand what you're trying to do, understand your game, and how to translate those matches and points and things you play onto the court.
So just for me it's been a learning curve over the last couple years. But I'm really glad to see things are finally turning around and looking up. I just look to continue to build and try to keep growing every day.
BJORN FRATANGELO: Yeah, you know, for me, it definitely took some time coming from juniors, going from playing people your age, going to play people that are a lot stronger physically, mentally. At least me, I felt like a little kid out there at the beginning of my start. I had to learn a lot about myself, really what I'm made of, the struggles I had in the beginning.
I'm 22. I'm a little bit older now. I'm more mature now. I understand myself. I feel like I understand tennis a little bit more.
Yeah, I wouldn't change the process that I've gone through. I feel like it's made me become the person and the competitor I am now. But, yeah, it definitely took some time to mature and grow, for sure.
Q. Bjorn, how does it feel to be going to the French Open for the first time after the success you had there last time in the junior singles?
BJORN FRATANGELO: Yeah, it's an amazing feeling, at a place where I have so many good memories. It's the place where I kind of kick‑started my junior success and also my transition to turning pro.
I'm thrilled to be back in Paris. It's one of my favorite cities to visit. I feel very comfortable walking around Roland Garros. I'm thrilled to get started in about a week's time.
Q. What are your expectations for the French Open? Are you going in with no expectations?
BJORN FRATANGELO: Yeah, I mean, look, obviously I would love to win some rounds, win a match or two definitely. But I just got to control the things I can control and make sure I do everything I can to make myself play well out there. That's all I can really focus on.
The draw could work in my favor, it could not work in my favor. But I can't really worry about that. Hopefully I get out there, play as well as I can. Yeah, it would be amazing to squeak out a round or two definitely. Obviously I can't control that, so hopefully I can just compete as hard as I can, and that's really it.
Q. Taylor, after you won the Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge two years ago, you had a great run to the third round in Paris. Thinking back on that, what was that experience like for you? Do you have any goals set for this year's tournament?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: Yeah, like I said earlier, this is my second time playing the Wild Card Playoffs. But, yeah, I think it was really great just because two years ago I was able to just get a lot of matches under my belt. Those are the first two pro titles I won. I was playing really well, I was confident in all the things I was doing.
I didn't go to the French with any expectations of, you know, whatever. I just went out there and just played and did what I was doing. I was very comfortable. I love the red clay. I was very comfortable and confident in all the things I was doing because I had so many matches under my belt.
I think going into this year's French is the same. I'm going in just expecting myself to play as hard as I can and compete my best. Ultimately I've had so many matches, I've played so much tennis, even prior to the clay court season, Indian Wells, playing 10 matches in a row. I have so much tennis leading up to this event. I'm pretty confident in what I'm doing. I'm excited to be able to be back and be able to have confidence in my game.
So I'm just really looking forward to it. I'm really excited to be going back.
Q. Have you set any goals for yourself this year?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: I mean, obviously it would be great, like Bjorn said, to win some rounds. Like he said, ultimately I could play Serena first round or someone else first round. I never know. I can only control the things that I can control.
But I expect myself‑‑ I hold myself to a very high standard as far as going out there and competing as hard as I can, fighting for every point. Ultimately I know if I do those things, do the right things, hopefully it will work in my favor, so...
Q. What is your feeling about Hawk‑Eye on the red clay? Do you think it should be there or not?
BJORN FRATANGELO: I don't personally think it should be there. The court kind of speaks for itself. Obviously people may disagree. Umpires, players may disagree.
For the most part the mark is there, so it will tell you if the ball is in or out. I don't think it's necessary that Hawk‑Eye needs to be on clay.
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: Yeah, I agree. Honestly, I didn't even know that they include Hawk‑Eye on the clay this year. Like he said, the mark is there. It's different on hard courts, where you see where the ball hits but there's no mark. On the clay it makes a very clear mark of where the ball hits, so it's pretty accurate as far as, you know, looking. If you're following the ball, everyone can pretty much agree on the mark most of the time, not all the time.
I don't think it's something that is necessary. Again, it's a feature we've included in our game. Obviously it's a great technology, but I just don't think we really need it on the clay.
Q. Even if it makes the calling better and more accurate, you don't think it's necessary?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: It makes a mark. So, I mean, it's pretty tough to dispute if you stop and you circle a mark. It's pretty hard to dispute that because it is so clear.
Q. There's question about where a mark begins and where a mark ends. Sometimes there's a question about which mark you're looking at. There are other variables.
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: There have been several instances where the Hawk‑Eye has been wrong, where I've played matches, the ball landed somewhere, the Hawk‑Eye picked up something different. It's not 100% accurate all the time.
I just think that if you see where the mark hits... Yeah, there are going to be disputes, not everyone is going to agree all the time. But for clay, since it makes such a visible mark, you're looking at where the ball is hitting, you stop and circle it, you're confident where you hit it, you don't need to show where the mark begins and where it ends. You see it and it is clear.
Q. Do you care that it disrupts play for the umpire to look at it?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: No. Because even if you play on hard courts and you challenge, it's the same thing. It's a disruption of play, so it really doesn't matter.
BJORN FRATANGELO: I agree with all of that, as well.
Q. Taylor, you mentioned you obviously don't know who you could play, possibly Serena in the first round. Talk about what your mindset is like when you play a Serena or that level player as opposed to at the Pro Circuit level where you're playing more players that are at the same level where you are at this point.
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: Well, that's a strange question, but...
Honestly, the people that play on the Pro Circuit level, we're all professionals. There are good players playing on the Pro Circuit level. Just because you don't see them playing WTAs every week, they're really good players. It's not like I played really easy matches.
Q. I wasn't suggesting that.
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: But obviously playing someone, I played Serena at the US Open a few years ago, and that was a surreal experience. But now that I have a little bit more maturity as far as a tennis player, as a person, I'm two years older, so I've had different experiences, have gone through different things.
I think approaching a match like that, it's ultimately just having the belief that I can compete and that I can win, not just going out there with no expectations and just hoping and believing that I get some games. Personally it's not like that for me anymore.
I just go out there and expect myself to do my best. I know what my best tennis can produce. Even if I'm not playing my best, to compete, I know what I can do out on the court. I have expectations for myself.
I know when I'm playing well and competing and into the match, you know, anything can happen and I can beat anybody if I put my mind to that.
It's about now just having the confidence and belief that I can compete and I can be out on the court with anybody. And I do believe that.
Q. You're talking about the French Open, and what I'm hearing is you're hoping to win a round or two. Do you go into a tournament like that thinking that you can win the whole tournament? If not, how do you reconcile the idea that you may never win a big tournament like that when the goal is to win a couple rounds? How do you reconcile that as a pro at your level?
BJORN FRATANGELO: I think you just have to be realistic about things. Both of us right now are not at the level, say, that we could win the whole tournament. I think if we said that, we would be very confident, which is great, but I think also it is kind of unrealistic. Really I think for both of us, the goal has to be achievable.
Taylor reached the third round before. I would love to do the same this year. I think that's an achievable goal depending on the circumstances. It's about where we are, experience. Both of us have had some of that experience where we can make a push to go deeper in draws.
Obviously to say that we're going to run through the draw, I'm going to steamroll Novak in the final, Taylor is going to beat Serena and Halep and everyone else, you want to believe that yourself, but to go out there and say it is a little bit unrealistic.
Both of us are saying what we really feel. That's just kind of how it is right now.
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: I couldn't have said that any better. Like Bjorn said, you have to be realistic with where you are, having expectations. As tennis players, when you're going into a tournament, you set a goal for yourself. Sometimes things happen where you reach that goal and surpass it, and sometimes you fall short. But it's all about the turnaround and just hoping‑‑ not even hoping, but working harder, working smarter, trying to reach those goals every single week.
Those little successes ultimately keep elevating you. So like he said, we can't go and say, I'm going to steamroll through the draw. Like he said, that's so unrealistic.
If we take it round by round, point by point, you never know what can happen. You can have an upset. Upsets happen every week. You never know.
We just have to be realistic and keep our heads down and stay focused with what we're trying to do. Whatever happens happens.
Q. You don't ever say to yourself if every break went your way, you could see yourself standing there the last weekend with the trophy in your hands?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: That's what we push for.
BJORN FRATANGELO: We can go to bed and dream about it at night. But to say, yeah, it's definitely going to happen if A, B, C goes according to plan, or the moon aligns with Jupiter. But, c'mon, both of us need to stay grounded and win one round first and then we can talk about the second and third and so on. I'm not going to sit here and predict that both of us are going to win Roland Garros.
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: It's one match at a time. Can't do anything after that.
THE MODERATOR: I'd like to thank everyone for getting on the call. A special thanks to both Taylor and Bjorn for taking the time out of their day as they approach the 2016 French Open. We wish both of them good luck.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports