Top American junior Tornado Alicia Black will make her WTA Tour debut next week after receiving a wild card into the Mexico Open.
Aside from her flashy name — born Alicia Black, the family nicknamed her Tornado after she showed tennis talent at a very young age — the 15-year-old made a big splash last season, when she made the U.S. Open girls’ final as a wild card. She finished the season by winning a $10,000 ITF tournament in Amelia Island, Fla., and making the quarterfinals of both the Eddie Herr International Junior Championships and the prestigious Orange Bowl.
Black, the fourth-ranked junior, skipped the Australian Open in January to play two ITF tournaments in Florida. She’s yet to win a main-draw match in three events this year. Black gave a walkover in the final round of qualifying in Vero Beach and lost to No. 246 Chieh Yu-Hsu in the first round in Daytona Beach. In her third ITF start, she lost to No. 117 Vesna Dolonc in the first round in Midland, Mich.
Black, who turns 16 in May, has a younger sister whose given name is Tyra Hurricane. Last fall, Black’s mother, Gayal, revealed that she gave her tennis-playing daughters unconventional names for marketing purposes. Here’s what Gayal told espnW:
“I have a marketing degree . . . and I knew I needed to do something for them to stand out, and we thought it was cute,” Gayal said. “[Tornado didn't like her name] a few years ago. Kids tease you. But now they understand it’s marketing and it’s very big to say a storm blew through the US Open.
“It’s great for everybody, for publicity. Greg Norman was the Great White Shark. Sir Richard Branson said you have to have a brand to use. We don’t want them to be the next Williams sisters or those African-American sisters. They’re Tornado and Hurricane so people can identify them as something other than the next Venus and Serena. And what better marquee above the US Open than ‘Tornado and Hurricane Black?’ “
Tornado’s WTA debut follows that of another top American junior, Taylor Townsend, last year. Townsend beat No. 57 Lucie Hradecka 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-3 as a 16-year-old wild card at the BNP Paribas Open. She lost to Ana Ivanovic in the second round.