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    The Portrait

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    By Charles Wolford and Dylon Jones

    Aretha Fuqua wanted to kill that ball. It was the early 1980s, and she was still new to tennis. The sixfoot-two-inch Fuqua had recently graduated from Kentucky State University, where she had played basketball, and she found that tennis required similar hand-eye coordination and precision. But she needed to trade sheer force for finesse. “You don’t get points for hitting it the hardest,” said Arthur Lloyd Johnson, a staple on the courts at Chickasaw Park and a member of the West Louisville Tennis Club who would go on to be in the Kentucky Tennis Hall of Fame.

    “He had a very stern kind of voice,” she says today. “It was one of those voices that you didn’t want to disappoint.” For the past three years, Fuqua has been the president of the West Louisville Tennis Club, which has about 55 members and has been around for 97 years. Fuqua pushed the club to transition from “nothing more than a social organization” into a nonprofit. Amid city budget cuts, a fundraising campaign raised $12,000 to repair the Chickasaw Park courts before this summer’s Arthur Lloyd Johnson Memorial Tournament. The club partners with several elementary schools to teach kids from the West End tennis fundamentals, but also those same lessons Johnson passed on to Fuqua years ago: determination, teamwork, how to be kind.

    Fuqua was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis about 10 years ago. She says that staying active on the court has helped her manage the pain. She sees that longevity in the other members, many of whom are now seniors. “These people that I so admired when I first started, they’re still in the tennis club today, which says to me that you can play this game forever,” she says. “All you have to do is keep moving, keep moving, keep moving.”

    This originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of Louisville Magazine as the Portrait. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Photos by Jessica Ebelhar,

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