July 22, 2024

Open Court


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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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