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Former tennis prodigy Kylie McKenzie awarded $9 million in sexual assault lawsuit against USTA

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Once a tennis prodigy, Kylie McKenzie is being awarded $9 million in a federal lawsuit against the United States Tennis Association, where she claimed the organization did not protect her from being sexually assaulted by her former coach at a training facility in Florida in 2018, per The Athletic. 

Anibal Aranda, then 34 years old, was McKenzie’s coach when she was a 19-year-old prodigy out of Arizona. McKenzie claimed in a 2022 lawsuit that Aranda had assaulted her on a back court at the USTA’s Orlando training facility. 

McKenzie stated the USTA failed to disclose that Aranda assaulted a former employee years before her own assault. 

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Kylie Mckenzie returns a shot during the ITF World Tennis Tour W50 Sao Paulo at Clube Hipico de Santo Amaro on March 27, 2024, in Brazil. (Buda Mendes/Getty Images for ITF)

McKenzie’s lawsuit was filed after the U.S. Center for SafeSport found Aranda “more likely than not” touched her vagina over her clothes and groped her during the process of showing her a serving technique in 2018, per The New York Times. 

Since the assault, McKenzie said she suffers from panic attacks, anxiety and depression.

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McKenzie was awarded $3 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages after a jury determined “there was a conscious disregard for the rights and safety of others, given in part attempts by the USTA to keep McKenzie’s case quiet,” per The Athletic. 

“I feel validated,” McKenzie, who is still trying to pursue a career in tennis, told The Athletic on Monday. “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 hard.”

USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said his organization will “pursue all avenues of appeal” in a statement that included sympathy for McKenzie. 

Kylie McKenzie return

Kylie Mckenzie during the ITF World Tennis Tour W50 Sao Paulo on March 27, 2024. (Buda Mendes/Getty Images for ITF)

“The court ruled that the USTA was liable because one of its employees – a non-athlete – had an obligation to report her own experience with this coach to the USTA, an incident that was unknown until after the USTA removed the coach. This sets a new and unreasonable expectation for victims, one that will deter them from coming forward in the future,” the statement read.

However, McKenzie’s attorney, Robert Allard, countered Widmaier, saying the jury found the USTA failed to regulate itself. 

“They don’t put athletes first,” Allard stated. “There needs to be a complete change in the organization so victims are not silenced but encouraged to come forward.”

Kylie McKenzie tosses ball for serve

Kylie Mckenzie serves in the singles match against Maria Mateas during the ITF World Tennis Tour W50 Sao Paulo on March 27, 2024. (Buda Mendes/Getty Images for ITF)

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McKenzie joined the USTA’s full-time training team out in California at 12 years old, and she’d go on to win the national U-16 championship at 15 years old. When she was 18, she transferred to the Orlando facility.

Aranda has denied touching McKenzie inappropriately in 2018. 

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