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The Next Generation

February 10, 2014 11:52 AM
Victoria Duval.
Michael Mmoh.
Taylor Townsend.
By Sally Milano, USTA.com
Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe, Venus and Serena Williams and James Blake are among the most well-known African-Americans to have etched their way into the tennis history books. But they may soon have company. There are a number of young up-and-comers on the horizon who are poised for big things in the years to come.
Here is a look at some of today’s current stars and phenoms on the rise whose futures look bright:
Tornado Alicia Black arrived on the national scene during her run to the girls’ singles final at the 2013 US Open Junior Championships, falling just short of winning the title in a dramatic 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 loss to No. 2 seeded Ana Konjuh of Croatia. The 15-year-old also won three ITF titles last year, reached the singles final at the girls' 18s Easter Bowl and won her first professional singles title at the $10,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Amelia Island, Fla. She is currently ranked fourth in the ITF World Junior Rankings.
Victoria Duval, who spent her youth in Haiti before immigrating to the U.S. at the age of 8, pulled off one of the biggest upsets at the 2013 US Open. Duval, 18, qualified into the women’s main draw and toppled 2011 singles champion Samantha Stosur, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, in the opening round. Duval reached a career-high ranking of No. 143 the week of Jan. 27 and is now at No. 145 in the world.
Eighteen-year-old Madison Keys broke into the world’s Top 40 in 2013 after reaching the third round of the Australian Open and Wimbledon. In 2011, she became the youngest player to win a main-draw match at the US Open since Nicole Vaidisova in 2005, and in 2009, she became the youngest player (14 years, 48 days) since Martina Hingis in 1994 to win a WTA match. Keys started 2014 by reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open tune-up event in Sydney and advancing to the second round in Melbourne. She trains with the USTA Player Development program at the USTA Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla., and made her Fed Cup debut against Italy earlier this month.
Michael Mmoh, 16, had big results at prestigious ITF junior events in 2013, winning the singles title at the Osaka Mayor's Cup and reaching the quarterfinals at the Metropolia Orange Bowl. In 2012, Mmoh won the boys’ 14 Orange Bowl title and led the U.S. to the World Junior Tennis championship. Known for his big serve and power game, the 16-year-old has been compared to France’s Gael Monfils for his athleticism. He is currently ranked No. 10 in the ITF World Junior Rankings.
Sloane Stephens is coming off a breakthrough year in 2013, in which she went 15-4 in Grand Slam play and reached the second week at all four Grand Slam tournaments – a run that included a win over Serena Williams in the Australian Open quarterfinals. The 20-year-old from Coral Springs, Fla., continued her streak at the 2014 Australian Open, where she advanced to the fourth round before falling to No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka. The daughter of an All-American swimmer and a NFL All-Pro running back, Stephens is one of the fastest players on tour. She ended 2013 ranked 12th in the world and is currently listed at No. 18.
Ranked ninth in the ITF World Junior Rankings, 16-year-old Francis Tiafoe ended 2013 on a high note, defeating Stefan Kozlov, 7-6, 0-6, 6-3, in an all-American singles final at the Metropolia Orange Bowl. With the win, Tiafoe became the youngest player to win the boys' 18s title in the tournament’s 67-year history.
Taylor Townsend's breakthrough year came in 2012, when she won four junior Grand Slam titles – sweeping the singles and doubles titles at the Australian Open and winning doubles championships at Wimbledon and the US Open – to become the first American in 30 years to finish as the No. 1-ranked girl in the ITF World Junior Rankings. The 17-year-old continued her impressive play at the junior majors last year, finishing as the runner-up at Wimbledon and reaching the quarterfinals at Roland Garros. Townsend, who turned pro in December 2012, also has found success at the pro level, finishing runner-up in doubles at the WTA event in Washington, D.C., last summer and reaching doubles finals at the USTA Pro Circuit events in New Braunfels, Texas, and Albuquerque, N.M., last fall. She began 2014 by reaching the quarterfinals at the $25,000 event in Daytona Beach, Fla., as a qualifier.
Sachia Vickery, 18, from Hollywood, Fla., swept the singles and doubles titles at the USTA Girls’ 18s National Championships in San Diego last year, beating Allie Kiick in the singles final and then teaming with Kiick to capture the doubles title. With the wins, Vickery earned wild cards into the US Open singles and doubles main draws. She took advantage in singles, winning her first-round match against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia in her Grand Slam debut before falling in the second round to Julia Glushko of Israel. Vickery also won the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs last December to earn a wild card into the 2014 Australian Open, where she fell to fellow American Lauren Davis in the first round.


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