Sixteen year-old African-American tennis champ, Taylor Townsend, has just won the first qualifying round at the WTA Memphis Tennis Championships. The young athlete finished out last season as the top-ranked junior tennis world champion. Her keen success led the U.S. to victory in the 2012 Junior Fed Cup team competition.

Taylor Townsend is a Chicago native. Her mother, Sheila Townsend, was a tennis player who introduced her two daughters to the sport. Her father serves as a high school principal in Georgia. Their oldest daughter, Symone, plays tennis on the Florida A&M University team. When training expenses increased for the girls, Taylor entered a training program in Boca Raton, FL. She lived at the training facility full-time at age 14. After playing at the 2011 U.S. Open, Townsend gained admirers in the famous Williams family, starting with Richard Williams, who introduced Townsend to his daughter Serena.

Controversy hit headlines late last year when the U.S. Tennis Association refused to fund her tournament appearances while she focused on “getting in better shape.” Townsend stood at 5’6, 170 lbs.  Serena Williams spoke in favor of Townsend to the press. Regardless of her size, Townsend is still ranked No. 1. As a matter of fact, Townsend was the first American to hold the No. 1 year-end ranking for junior girls since Gretchen Rush in 1982, according to the New York Times.

Townsend’s coach is Kathy Rinaldi, a tennis pro who became the youngest player to win a match at Wimbledon in 1981 at age 14.

Follow Taylor Townsend on Twitter @Taylor_Townsend.

(Photo: NewsOne)

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