Taylor Townsend returns a volley to Flavia Pennetta, of Italy, at the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament, Wednesday Aug. 13, 2014, in Mason, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tom Uhlman)
Tom Uhlman
August 23, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) Serena Williams calls her first U.S. Open opponent ''the future of American tennis.''

Eighteen-year-old Taylor Townsend is a former top-ranked junior player who reached the third round at the French Open this year. Williams said Saturday that the two are ''really good friends'' who talk and text often.

Townsend is playing in the U.S. Open main draw for the first time after receiving a wild card, and her debut couldn't get any bigger. Expect to see her face the 17-time major champion at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday.

Asked what Ashe would think of the matchup between two generations of African-American players, the 32-year-old Williams said that ''I think he would be really proud and honored to see so many young African-American players doing so well and playing so hard and just being role models for even the next generation.''

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