The first set became a back-and-forth battle early. Townsend started the match by breaking Gauff’s serve to jump to the lead. Shortly after, Gauff redeemed herself, breaking Townsend’s serve. Townsend stayed close, keeping the competition tough, but Gauff closed the set with an ace.
Amid the competitive battle, Gauff and Townsend kept the crowd laughing and engaged with some trick shots.
Just as she did in the first set, Townsend started the second set hot, taking the initial lead. Gauff immediately followed, holding her serve. Throwing in some trick shots, Townsend drew within one game at 4-3. However, Gauff eventually earned the win by taking the second set.
This match was important for Townsend, 26, as she prepares for the 2022 U.S. Open. In March 2021, she gave birth to her son, Adyn. Townsend recently returned to the court after not competing for almost two years, winning her first title as a mother at the W100 USTA Pro Circuit event in Charleston, S.C. Thanks to the Sunday exhibition match, Townsend was able to make a statement in front of her home crowd and inspire the young women and girls watching.
“To be able to inspire people and to play in our backyard, where not a lot of people get to see us play live, you know, it’s kind of like something that’s on their bucket list,” Townsend said. “But, to do it in our backyard, I think it’s so special. So, again, I’m so happy that we were able to do it.”
From the moment Townsend and Gauff stepped onto the court, the crowd – filled with people of all ages –beamed with equal excitement for two of the biggest names in tennis who both have Atlanta ties.
“The crowd was really amazing tonight,” Gauff said. “The atmosphere was great. I had so much fun tonight, and I can’t wait to do it all over again (Monday).”
Gauff will be back in action Monday night to face off against Sofia Kenin. The last time these two faced off was in 2020, when Kenin defeated Gauff in the Australian Open. The second exhibition match is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday.