AP - Michael Chow/The Arizona Republic

In a federal court in Florida, a tennis player was awarded $9 million (€8.3m) in compensation by a jury. The player accused the U.S. Tennis Association of negligence, alleging that they did not safeguard her from a coach who sexually abused her during her teenage years at a training centre.

Kylie McKenzie filed the lawsuit in March 2022, alleging that Anibal Aranda, who worked for the sport's national governing body for approximately seven years before being terminated, exploited his role as a USTA coach to target vulnerable female athletes and perpetrate sexual battery against them.

“I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. I feel validated,” McKenzie said in a statement on Tuesday. “It was very hard, but I feel now that it was all worth it. I hope I can be an example for other girls to speak out even when it’s difficult.”

The AP typically refrains from disclosing the identities of individuals who claim to be victims of sexual assault. However, McKenzie consented to her name being disclosed in news reports covering her lawsuit. In her lawsuit, McKenzie asserted that the USTA exhibited negligence by not adequately safeguarding her from sexual assaults. Furthermore, she alleged that the organization was negligent in retaining Aranda as a coach despite his previous sexual assault of a USTA employee.

McKenzie, currently 25 years old, achieved her highest career ranking of No. 33 in 2016 as a junior player. In the preceding year, she amassed a 20-6 record in junior competitions. Notably, her victories included matches against Sofia Kenin, who later clinched the championship at the 2020 Australian Open, and Tamara Zidansek, who advanced to the semifinals at the 2021 French Open.

McKenzie will receive money in damages it has been revealed. AP - Michael Chow/The Arizona Republic
McKenzie will receive money in damages it has been revealed. AP - Michael Chow/The Arizona Republic

On Monday, the U.S. District Court jury granted McKenzie $3 million (€2.7m) in compensatory damages and imposed an additional $6 million (€5.5m) in punitive damages. “We are very pleased with the jury’s decision to award Ms. McKenzie for her pain and suffering but more importantly we believe the jury’s decision to award punitive damages sends the correct message to all sports organisations that they must take necessary steps to protect the athletes under their banner,” McKenzie's lawyer Judkins said.

Chris Widmaier, a spokesperson for the USTA, stated that the organisation intends to file an appeal. “We are sympathetic to the plaintiff and what she endured. We do not, and have never, disputed her allegations against a coach,” Widmaier stated.

On Tuesday, Widmaier mentioned that the USTA is currently conducting a thorough examination of its safeguarding policies and procedures. To facilitate this review, the organization has engaged the services of two attorneys from a Washington-based law firm. Their focus is on assessing the measures implemented by the USTA to ensure the safety of athletes from abuse and to evaluate the organisation's response to reports of misconduct.