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Next generation of African-Americans ready to make their mark

February 2, 2016 02:23 PM

By E.J. Crawford and Mark Preston, USTA.com

The impact of African-Americans on the sport of tennis dates back to the 1950s and 1960s and the major-stage triumphs of Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe, but never before have there been so many young, talented black American players as there are today. Indeed, as the next wave of up-and-coming U.S. standouts makes a splash in this sport, a good number of them will be African-American, each striving to widen the trail that was blazed before them and employing their respective talents to further diversify their sport of choice.

That path, paved by Ashe, Gibson, Zina Garrison, Lori McNeil, James Blake – and of course by the inimitable tandem of Serena and Venus Williams – is now being followed by some of the finest young players in the world.

Some have already made waves at Grand Slam events – including past Australian Open semifinalists Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens and Top 50 challenger Donald Young, who has twice advanced to the US Open round of 16. Some have shown flashes of potent potential on the professional tours – like Victoria Duval and Sachia Vickery. Still others have climbed to the top ranks of the college and junior games and are now transitioning to the sport’s highest levels – like Robin Anderson, Tornado Ali Black, Jarmere Jenkins, Michael Mmoh, Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Townsend.

It is a heady time for American tennis. Serena remains the brightest star in the game, Venus last year returned to the Top 10, the U.S. boasted a nation-best 29 entrants into the recently completed Australian Open – 10 more than any other country – and three of the four junior boys Slams were won by Americans in 2015.

In a myriad of ways, African-American players are leading that charge. Here, in celebration of Black History Month, are six on the cusp of breaking through and making their very own impressive imprint on the professional game. (Click on their names to learn more about these rising stars.)

Player Age (as of Feb. 1) Current Rank High Rank
Robin Anderson 22 280 277 (2015)
Hurricane Tyra Black 14 86 (Junior Rank) 83 (Junior, 2016)
Victoria Duval 20 586 87 (2014)
Michael Mmoh 18 387 385 (2015)
Frances Tiafoe 18 181 176 (2015)
Sachia Vickery 20 136 108 (2015)

Pictured above, L to R: Tiafoe, Duval, Anderson and Mmoh