In celebration of Black History Month, the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF) released a digital exhibit, Breaking the Racial Barriers, which is a comprehensive look at the history of black tennis in America. The exhibit includes brief profiles of black tennis pioneers, former pros and current top pros, including tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams and Dr. R. Walter Johnson, who in 2009 was inducted into the (ITHF) as a contributor. Throughout the Australian Open, the will recognize selected black pioneers and current players.

Donald Young, Jr, a Chicago native, had just turned 10 when he became the nation’s No. 1 ranked junior in the 12-and-under division. He had quick feet, soft hands and moved about the court with the sureness and savvy of a more seasoned player. While in Chicago for a senior event, John McEnroe, agreed to exchange shots with Young, one of the ball boys at the event. The Hall of Famer was surprised by Young’s fluency and focus. “He has hands like another lefty I know very well,” McEnroe said.  The tennis legend monitored Young’s progress and encouraged IMG, his agency, to sign him posthaste. 

In 2005, Young became the first U.S. black and youngest ever (16 years, 5 months) player to end the year ranked No. 1 in the world. He had turned pro a year earlier. IMG negotiated endorsement deals for him with Head (rackets, 2004) and Nike (clothes, 2005), years before he won his first ATP tour level singles match. Young’s pro career, however, has lacked the excitement and level of success that he enjoyed as a junior.  He won 9 Futures and Challenger titles but none on the ATP Tour. He notched his first ATP singles match three years after turning pro but has yet to capture an ATP Tour event 16 years into his career. Some critics say temperament and physical size were factors in his early struggles. Young reached a career high ranking of No. 38 in singles (February 2012), No. 10 in doubles (August 2017) and has earned $4.6 million in prize money.

Courtesy of International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF)