Was the number one junior tennis champ benched for being 'too fat'?

In a controversial decision, the U.S. Tennis Association sends Taylor Townsend, its brightest (if not most svelte) young star to the sidelines — and the fallout isn't pretty

Taylor Townsend
(Image credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Sixteen-year-old tennis prodigy Taylor Townsend is the world's No. 1 junior girls player, with several titles — including Australian Open junior singles champion and Wimbledon junior doubles champion — already under her belt. What she isn't is thin. Despite her mastery of the court, Townsend has been benched from further tournament appearances by the United States Tennis Association (USTA), with which she is part of a four-year development program, until she improves her "overall fitness." Though the USTA cites Taylor's health as their top concern, critics have called the decision discriminatory, and cited the success of curvier players like Serena Williams and Lindsay Davenport as proof that women of all body types can compete on an international level. Is the USTA being discriminatory, or is it simply trying to protect the health of one of its rising young stars?

The USTA's decision is sexist and racist: It should be noted that Townsend is black, says Cliff Potter at Bleacher Report. The USTA's refusal to finance her tournament appearances signals, sadly, that it operates "in a world that is not yet through with racial and sexual insensitivity." The decision is a reminder of a relatively recent time when professional tennis was played in private clubs and "treated as if it were an all-white sport." And the USTA looks even more ludicrous after Serena Williams — whose body type "is totally dissimilar to most bodies on tour, men and women" — won the U.S. Open on Sunday. "If your physique looks like Serena Williams, perhaps the best women's player in history, what more needs be said?"

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