Teen Wimbledon Phenom inspires Louisville tennis community

Posted at 4:24 PM, Jul 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-08 10:25:03-04

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) — On Center Court at Wimbledon Friday, it was a tense moment.

A short ball led to a long lob flown too far and the tennis match between Coco Gauff and Polona Hercog ended in an instant.
Gauff threw up her arms and jumped in the air.

The suddenness of reality after hours of a drawn-out battle had set in. She won, making it through the second week of the tournament.

It’d be an impressive feat for anyone, but at just 15-years-old, Gauff was continuing an historic run.

Just days ago, the teen even beat her idol, Venus Williams, on one of tennis’ biggest stages.

“I’m just happy that there’s someone in the background they can pass that baton to,” Aretha Fuqua, President of the West Louisville Tennis Club, said.

In Louisville, the heat made it hard to get out on the courts Friday, but Fuqua was fine with that, glued to her television watching Gauff instead.

The Florida native, Gauff, is the youngest player to qualify for the main tournament.

Fuqua said that has become an inspiration for African-American girls watching across Louisville.

“It’s a very large following that the Williams sisters have been responsible for creating," Fuqua said. "So, I’m excited for that as well. It’s just an opportunity to see our people, my people, succeed in the game of tennis.”

Fuqua said when she was growing up she did idolize players like Althea Gibson, but added the sport wasn’t as inclusive and she didn’t start playing until a little later in life.

“I think if someone had given me a tennis racket at the same time they gave me that basketball, I would have been the first Serena, that’s what I like to believe," Fuqua joked. "That’s probably not true, but in my mind’s eye, I’m going to go with that.”
It’s dreams like that she hadn’t thought of as a young girl, but hopes others lacing up for the first time can now imagine.

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