Hey, Coaches. If A 16-Year-Old Is Winning All The Time, Maybe Her Shape Isn’t Really A Problem?

Robby Berman

Her coaches didn’t exactly call her “fat,” but she knew what they meant. They used the word “unfit.” No, she’s not model-slender, and so what? She’s the world’s top-ranked junior tennis player. Unfit? She wasn’t going to stand for it.

Brianna: In sports, you usually want your best players on the field or court, But that was not the case at this year's US Open, the governing body, American Tennis, telling the world's top ranked junior player to stay home because she was not in good enough shape to play. ABC's Tanya Rivero is here with the story. Good morning, Tanya.

Tanya: Good morning, Brianna. This sixteen year old prodigy is being compared to the Williams sisters. Their father even telling Taylor Townsend she's even better than they were at her age. So she says she was crushed when she learned that her own coaches thought she should sit out one of the biggest tournaments of the year.

This number one ranked junior tennis player in the world says she was told she shouldn't compete in the US Open. Why? The United States Tennis Association said she needed slim down and get in better shape.

Taylor: I didn't get a definite answer on why they didn't want me to play. They just told me that they felt as though I should work on my fitness more.

Tanya: Taylor Townsend and her mother Shelia say that the association refused to cover her expenses to the US Open because they felt she needed to stay home and up her fitness level.

Taylor: I think it was more conditioning as more so than, you know, one specific number for my weight.

Tanya: So she paid her own way to the tournament, where she made it to the quaterfinals in singles and won her juniors double match Friday, now advancing to the finals.

Christine: The reality is there are a lot of different shapes and sizes in tennis. And if you look at Lindsay Davenport, if you look at Serena Williams, those are two muscular, strong, terrific athletes who achieved greatness.

Tanya: But Patrick McEnroe, head of USTA's player development, tells ABC the open was never off limits to Taylor. He says they simply suggested she take a pass after she struggled with her game earlier this summer.

"No one tournament is bigger than a player's career, especially when the player is 16. Taylor continues to be one of our best prospects and our goal is her long term development."

The association is now saying it will reimburse Townsend for US Open expenses and Taylor is eager to put the incident behind her.

Taylor: I definitely think it will pass because I think we all have a common goal here. I want to do well.

Sheila: The bottom line is, Taylor wants to play tennis and become the best player that she can be.

Tanya: And tennis fans certainly aren't watching her weight but rather her rise to the top of the game.

And Taylor will be playing for the junior doubles championship this afternoon. We'll all be rooting for her, as will the US Tennis Association, who tells us they're proud of her accomplishments at the US Open and overnight apologized for the miscommunication. Brianna.

Brianna: That's so unfortunate. I hope it doesn't discourage her. All right, Tanya. Thank you.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

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