Why US tennis prodigy Tornado Black has to crowdfund her own operation


An outstanding young player who had twice been homeless before rising to No. 3 in the junior world rankings in 2014, Black’s career seemed to be over before it had even begun when a serious hip injury forced her out of the 2015 US Open.

Two years later, the now 19-year-old Black is working as a tennis coach in Florida to support her ailing mother and tennis-playing younger sister, Hurricane Tyra Black.

Although Black had surgery in October 2015, her hip blew out again in July 2016. The pain has become so bad it hampers her sleep at night. To help pay for a much-needed yet costly operation, Black decided to start a crowdfunding campaign.

“I just have Medicaid, that’s just state insurance,” Black said by phone from Florida. “They cover the basics which I’m lucky to have, but they don’t cover for this operation, for what I need. So that’s really tough on me.”

“I’m supporting my family right now, my younger sister and my mom, so I can’t be spending all that money on insurance every month,” she said.

GoFundMe

Black’s story was first reported by the New York Times on September 5. Although Black initially rejected the idea of raising funds online, she decided to start a GoFundMe page after an overwhelming response to the article.

“I’m not the type of person that likes to ask people for money,” Black said. “But I was getting so much support from friends and from people I didnt even know, and everyone kept telling me, ‘set up the GoFundMe’. I’ve been given so much support over the last couple of days. It has really been amazing.”

Black’s GoFundMe page showed she has raised more than $13,000 in the first two days of the campaign.

Her goal is to reach $40,000, which would cover the $16,000 operation by an expert in Philadelphia and also pay for rehabilitation without having to give tennis lessons.

Pushed too hard

Rest and recovery is something Black has been lacking in her junior career, during which she said she sometimes spent up to 10 hours a day on the court and was pushed too hard while her body wasn’t yet strong enough.

“It’s a tough situation,” she said. “If I can go back in time and change it, I would take better care of my body and not play as much.”

Hailed as a future star of American tennis after she narrowly lost to Croatia’s Ana Konjuh in the US Open junior finals four years ago, Black remains hopeful of a return to the top level.

“I would have to get my fitness back because I haven’t really been able to do anything in the last few years,” she said. “I’m not afraid of my game, coming back, because I’ve been playing my whole life. I feel like if you’re at a certain level, you don’t really lose the tennis aspect of it.”

Serena, Venus provide hope

Venus Williams at this year's US Open.

Black is also taking inspiration from Serena and Venus Williams, who were still contending for the biggest titles well into their mid-30s.

This season, the now 37-year-old Venus Williams reached the finals of Wimbledon and the Australian Open and the US Open semifinals.

“I see Serena, I see Venus, I see so many of these players doing better and better well into their late 20s, early 30s,” Black said. “It gives me a lot of hope.”



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