Tornado Alicia Black will be playing her debut WTA match at Mexico's Abierto Mexicano TELCEL. For awhile, her name may gather more attention than tennis, which is what was intended years ago for her and younger sister, Hurricane Black.
"They wanted us to be tennis stars so they picked storm names,” Black explained to The New York Post. “I used to hate it because a lot of kids made fun of me, but now I’m getting used to it. I like it now."
A 15-year-old tennis prodigy from Florida, USA, Black's parents have provided ambition and genetics to facilitate her success. Newsday reported that her father, Sylvester, played Davis Cup tennis for Jamaica and competed in track. Her mother, Gayal, was a college swimmer.
Tornado and Hurricane are children of an athletic home with the support and perceptiveness to provide for their tennis futures. It remains to be seen just how involved they will be with their professional careers, but for now it's about helping Tornado Alicia launch into the WTA.
Tennis fans got a larger glimpse of Tornado Alicia Black at the junior 2013 U.S. Open. As a wild card, she raced all the way to the final before losing a 5-3 lead in the third set to Croatian Ana Konjuh—the No. 1-ranked junior for much of 2013.
Black's game so far does not showcase big power, but her lanky frame, loopy strokes and deep positioning beyond the baseline are tools she will continue to develop if she is to become a stronger attacking player. The following video is a good glimpse at her smooth form:
The New York Post furthermore assessed her game as conservative, with her tendencies to avoid unforced errors and choose when to attack, but also "possessing tremendous speed and a powerful backhand."
Another good quality is Black's composure. Her U.S. Open final appearance staged her against a bigger and stronger opponent, but that Black "showed no signs of intimidation," according to Dana Czapnik on U.S. Open.org. The recap explained how Black kept a cool head and a strong defensive game, forcing Konjuh to make mistakes in a pressure-filled match. She also battled through a hamstring injury.
There was a candid and innocent nature to Black in her U.S. Open post-match interview. She said that the match was about "whoever wants it more." Asked which professional tennis player she would like to meet, she went straight to the top: Roger Federer.
Black is now ready for her opening-round match in Acapulco, Mexico Monday evening. She will be facing sixth-seeded (World No. 42) Bojana Jovanovski from Serbia, a young player by normal chronology but seven years Black's senior. Jovanovski will be a good baseline test with her forehand.
First match aside, Black will now have the eyes of the world watching her progress as she dips her toes into the WTA waters. It won't be easy as she finds herself learning her trade against women who have years of extra muscle, experience and professional development. She will need to build a stronger serve and more aggressiveness, which will likely occur through degrees, not leaps.
It will take time, perhaps several more years before the tennis world can fully assess Black's future. It's not always this easy, given the impatience with fans and media who expect instant results in a fast-paced world of Twitter, chat boards and instant entertainment options.
Black will need matches, but also time to mature. She was learning to walk when Steffi Graf retired, and was only four years old when Pete Sampras won his final match at the U.S. Open. She has only watched players like Federer, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal.
Tornado Alicia Black is from a brand new generation that has not yet registered on the forecast. Give her plenty of time.