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Shuji Kajiyama, Associated Press
Taylor Townsend of the US reacts after winning a point against Yulia Putintseva of Russia in the girl's single final at the Australian Open tennis championship, in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012.

MELBOURNE, Australia — With Venus and Serena Williams nearing the ends of their careers, the question that's been asked over and over again in American tennis circles is: who's going to take their place?

It may just be 15-year-old Taylor Townsend of Stockbridge, Ga.

Townsend defeated Yulia Putintseva of Russia 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 on Saturday to win the girls' singles event at the Australian Open, a day after she and partner Gabrielle Andrews of Pomona, Calif., won the girls' doubles.

When she closed out the match at 15,000-seat Rod Laver Arena, Townsend burst into tears on the court.

"Tears of joy," she said afterward. "It's a dream come true for me, you know. A lot of people were supporting me, and my family and everything are just so proud. It was just a proud moment for me and ... the feelings kind of rushed in."

Her family seemed even more excited.

She said her mother "was like going crazy, and so was my sister," she said. "I was like, 'Hurry up. Call dad.' So she called my dad. He was screaming, but he couldn't hear me."

Townsend, who is coached by former top 10 player Kathy Rinaldi, said she wouldn't have made the trip Down Under if she wasn't confident she could win the title, even though she's a couple of years younger than many of the other competitors.

"That's a belief that I had in myself, but, I mean, definitely when I got through the quarterfinals, I was like, 'You have three more matches and you can win this.'"

Rinaldi said Townsend has been training with her full-time in Florida and it's sometimes been difficult for her to be away from her family.

"I said, 'It takes some sacrifices and it will pay off for you,'" Rinaldi said. "And she goes 'I'm trusting you.' And it paid off for her this week."

Townsend joins a distinguished list of previous girls' winners at Melbourne Park, including Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (2006, '07), Victoria Azarenka (2005), Jelena Jankovic (2001).