USTA Tells No. 1 Ranked Junior Player Taylor Townsend to Shape Down or Risk Shipping OutMeredith Carroll
Thin has been in for too many years to count. It’s so in, in fact, that anorexic-looking models are often the ones with the fattest bank accounts because their protruding collar bones and skeletal arms are what sells fashion, apparently (based on who’s walking down the catwalk during Fashion Week, anyway).
And yet Condé Nast International, the publisher of Vogue, among other titles, launched a Health Initiative to “encourage a healthier approach to body image within the industry” earlier this year. As part of the efforts to make people realize that anorexia is not sexy, models who appear to have an eating disorder are banned from the so-called fashion bible. Fewer magazines might be sold as a result, but the point is to start making changes for a healthier future.
That’s why it doesn’t seem too off-base that the United States Tennis Association is putting the hammer down on the world’s No. 1 ranked junior player, Taylor Townsend.
According to Jezebel (via the Wall Street Journal), Townsend was not reimbursed for her travel to this month’s U.S. Open in New York by the U.S.T.A. because they’re not happy with the shape she’s in (although The New York Times has since clarified that report, saying thee organization will and has always planned on paying her back).
What remains true is that the USTA wants Townsend to get in better shape, even though the shape she’s in has earned her a No. 1 ranking.
“It has nothing to do with weight; it has nothing to do with body type,” Patrick McEnroe, director of the U.S.T.A. player development program, said. “It has to do with overall fitness, over all what her game is. Our concern is her long-term health, number one, and her long-term development as a player.”
Not every player can look like Maria Sharapova or Anna Kournikova, but even Townsend, the reigning Australian Open singles champion and Wimbledon and U.S. Open double champion, admits she needs to shape up a bit.
McEnroe, along with Townsend’s coaches, had her withdraw from competing in some major tournaments in order to work on her conditioning. Her next career steps after the U.S. Open remain unclear as the U.S.T.A. evaluates the steps Townsend is taking to work on her fitness level.
“I’m not going to sit here and say that I couldn’t have gotten in better shape or that I couldn’t get in better shape,” Townsend admitted this week.
“You have to be fit underneath, I don’t think you necessarily have to look ripped,” former No. 1 Mats Wilander said in the Wall Street Journal. “Smart players can get away with being a little tired.”
“By benching Townsend,”Tom Perrota write in the Wall Street Journal article, “the USTA seems to be sending a message that developing solid fundamentals (like fitness) is more important for a player’s long-term success and longevity than competitive results.”
As with the modeling industry, or at least Condé Nast publications, it’s comforting to know that the U.S.T.A. isn’t just looking out for their bottom line, but the long-term health of their sport, and, even more importantly, their players.
After all, if Townsend made it to the No. 1 spot as a junior, with a bit more conditioning and people looking out for more than just her trophies, who knows how far she’ll got when she gets a little older.
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