Three years ago, Alicia ‘Tornado’ Black was the third-ranked junior girl in the world.
Black overcame insurmountable odds, including two stints of homelessness to reach the heights of junior’s tennis. However, while many of her contemporaries were preparing to play in the U.S. Open, Black was home in Florida, teaching and giving young students tennis lessons.
Black isn’t playing in the U.S Open because she wasn’t good enough.
Instead, she has been sidelined by debilitating sports hernias and muscle tears, which have left her in constant pain. A simple operation would fix Black’s ailments, but her insurance and Medicaid won’t cover the out-of-state procedure and her share of the surgery would be extremely costly. The estimated cost of the surgery is $16,000, but Black says she needs an additional $40,000 to rehabilitate from the surgery without having to work. Compounding the issue, Black’s mother is sickened with skin cancer, severe asthma and unable to help financially.
Black’s 16 year old sister Hurricane Tyra Black is currently ranked number 55 in the juniors. “My muscle is torn apart and it’s really painful,” Black said. “It’s so tough because I want to get my surgery, but I can’t leave my family hanging. What kind of person would I be if I left them on the street?” Black’s family faced two stints of homelessness before the age of 12. For two months, Black, her mother and sister spent two months living in a car as she trained for the United States Tennis Association in Boca Raton.
“We were living in the car,” she said. “So that’s actually how I got into the U.S.T.A. They had me stay in the dorms because I was sleeping in the car every day. I was going out to court too tired, worrying, mosquito bites, everything.” Her former U.S.T.A coach Federico Rodriguez saw the potential in Black at age 12. “She was already the best 12-year-old in the country,” Rodriguez said. “She has a rare combination of speed, power and court intelligence that makes her so dangerous. It’s just really sad that she isn’t playing now.”
While Black earned $47,348 in career prize money, that money is long gone. And now, even her coaching future is in doubt. Black’s pain has become so severe that she has had to pass several of her clients to other coaches. She also hasn’t been to the orthodontist in a year to examine the braces she has on her teeth. Black’s mother has encouraged her to start a GoFundMe campaign to raise the money, but Alicia says she’s too embarrassed to ask. She also worries that she may need additional surgery.
“What scares me most is, if I’m damaging my hip more to a certain point, that they can’t fix it,” Black said. Despite her financial troubles, Black is trying to remain hopeful about her future. “Thankfully, at least for now, I have a roof overhead and some food to eat. But then again, I’m not playing tennis, doing what I love….what I’m supposed to be doing.”
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