Taylor Townsend, the 16-year-old from Stockbridge Ga., became the first American female in 30 years to be ranked number one for the year by the ITA.
USTA.com reports: "The effervescent Townsend trains at the USTA Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla. with national coach Kathy Rinaldi and is known for taking the court with an assortment of rubber bracelets on her wrist and over-sized bows in her hair."
She is also know as the player who was denied support by the USTA this last summer to travel to the Girls 18s Nationals and U.S. Open. Townsend paid her own expenses to the Open, getting to the semis of the singles and winning the doubles.
"Our concern is her long-term health, number one, and her long term development as a player," said Patrick McEnroe, general manager of the USTA's player development program. "We have one goal in mind: For her to be playing in (Arthur Ashe Stadium) in the main draw and competing for major titles when it's time. That's how we make every decision, based on that."
Townsend is full-figured young woman. I don't know if that qualifies her as unhealthy or unfit, and I wonder who exactly determined that playing the U.S. Open would be potentially detrimental to her health, well-being and long-term development. You would imagine that the flaws in her game would be exposed by her results. Well she's number one after playing in the Open and a full-figure didn't seem to to have hurt Serena's long-term development too much.
Former world's number one Lindsay Davenport had this to say about the incident, "I'm really disheartened by this Townsend news :( makes me sad. Also makes me wonder if any females were involved in the decision-making."
Also makes me wonder if any common sense was used. The reality of today's world is that body image for females is a source of great sensitivity. Females are bullied and mocked every day for not conforming to unrealistic body shapes. Taylor Towsend's coaches told her that she's physically deficient, but she persevered and didn't give in to those who might undermine a less resilient self-esteem.
Congratulations Taylor ... you are an inspiration.
Steven Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation and executive director and founder of Serve & Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally-ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.