Donations Will Help Former Tennis Prodigy Get Career-Saving Surgery

Donations Will Help Former Tennis Prodigy Get Career-Saving Surgery

Another donor, the author Steven Gillis, paid Black’s outstanding $1,800 orthodontist bill. Black had not seen an orthodontist in more than a year because she could not afford to pay her bill. Thanks to Gillis, she recently had her braces removed.

Black also raised $40,180 in a little over a month through an internet crowdfunding campaign. She thought that would cover the cost of her surgery and rehab. But the operation alone turned out to be roughly four times as expensive as she had expected, about $62,000.

“I feel so blessed and I am so grateful to everyone,” she said. “I originally didn’t want to do the GoFundMe campaign. But a woman contacted me and said I should do it because if I got back on the tour and became successful, I could do so much for other people. That’s my goal now.”

A member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s executive board, Hassenfeld runs his family’s philanthropic foundation. He checked with people he knew to make sure Black was a worthy recipient of his donation.

“I don’t usually give to individuals, but I was so moved by her story,” he said. “I asked her to make two promises. One, that if she is ever able, she helps another tennis player in need. And two, that she invites me to her player box at the U.S. Open.”


Black has been teaching tennis lessons to make money after the hip injury stalled her pro career.

Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

This month, using some of the money from the crowdfunding effort, Black traveled from her home in Delray Beach, Fla., to Philadelphia and met with two hip specialists. One will fix two sports hernias — tears in the lower abdominal muscles — and the other will shave down and repair structural damage to the pelvic bones.

“They said I made it a lot worse by coaching and waiting to have it done,” Black said. “Originally, I thought I had one injury. It turned into four.”

But she said the doctors had assured her that she should be able to get back on the court and resume her career at full strength after a six-month rehabilitation, which will begin in Philadelphia the day after her operation. Black will stay in a hotel there for two weeks and then return home to Florida.

She will use some of the crowdfunding money to cover the extra cost of the operation, beyond what Hassenfeld provided. She said she would use the remaining money to pay for a strength and conditioning coach, rent, utility bills, food and other expenses while she rehabilitates.

Black plans to be back on tour by next summer. She will have to rebuild her ranking, which was No. 404 at the time of her injury, and will aim to break into the top 100, where players start to earn enough money to make tennis a real livelihood.

If she succeeds in her comeback, Black said, she wants to open her own charity and address issues that have affected her life, like childhood homelessness. Black has said that she lived in homeless shelters with her family when she was young and that she also lived out of the family car for weeks at a time when she was 12.

“No child should ever have to go through that,” she said. “I hope I can be in a position to help.”

Because her family used food stamps, childhood hunger is another issue dear to her, she said, as is the high cost of medical care.

“Someday I’d like to be able to help a kid get an operation they can’t afford,” she said. “I think that would be a good way to pay everyone back for all their generosity to me.”

Black said she was also interested in helping children get proper dental care. For the past several months, she said, she was embarrassed because she had the remnants of braces on her teeth. The wires were taken out, but she ran out of money before the attachments could be removed.

With help from Hassenfeld, Gillis and others, that is no longer a problem.

“I’m not embarrassed anymore,” she said. “Now I can smile.”

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