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Townsend tells hard-hitting stories of being a Black tennis player
"I was fat, and I was Black, so they took away my dream. Or at least they tried," she told The Players Tribune.
Published Jun 09, 2021
In a disarmingly honest contribution to The Players Tribune, Taylor Townsend discussed the challenges that stemmed from being an unconventional athlete in a cookie-cutter sport.
"Once I climbed that mountain?? Now they'll be proud to have me. Now I'll be treated like a part of American tennis. Now I'll be one of them," Townsend said. "Doesn’t exactly work that way, though, does it.
"As a matter of fact….. it worked pretty much exactly the opposite."
Then a top-ranked junior, Townsend was famously forced to train with the USTA in Florida and was withheld funding to play the 2012 US Open. Conceding her strength and conditioning level stood to improve, she still nonetheless winning junior Grand Slams—capturing that year's junior Australian Open in singles and doubles, along with the junior Wimbledon doubles title.
During that summer of 2012, her trainer revealed that testing showed she had been suffering from anemia. Believing the secret to her depleted stamina had been uncovered, Townsend thought a trip to the US Open was back on the table.
The USTA wasn't on board with this decision, deeming her still unfit play and wouldn't provide her with a wildcard into the main draw.
"I was fat, and I was Black, so they took away my dream. Or at least they tried."
"Sixteen years old, and getting to No. 1 in juniors as a Black girl from the South Side? I was so proud of that.," Townsend said. "I was so proud of who I was, and what I’d achieved. And I think I had it in my head, like, alright — I know I might be an outsider in this sport. I know I might not be like all these other tennis kids. But once I got to No. 1?? Once I climbed that mountain?? Now they'll be proud to have me. Now I'll be treated like a part of American tennis. Now I'll be one of them.
"Doesn’t exactly work that way, though, does it. As a matter of fact….. it worked pretty much exactly the opposite. It worked the way things usually work in a country that hates fat Black women."
Paying her own way to New York, she enjoyed a quarterfinals run in the girl's singles tournament and ultimately won a third Grand Slam doubles title of the season alongside American Gabby Andrews.
"I was fat, and I was Black, so they took away my dream.
"Or at least they tried."
This was just the very beginning of a harrowing story, one that reveals racial inequalities and discrimination for Black women athletes, both on and off the court.
Townsend gave birth to her first child, son Adyn in March and is looking to make a return to the WTA Tour.
Read the full story here.