ROANOKE, Va.,(WFXR) — Roanoke native Juanita Stanley gets a special honor as she is inducted in the first class of Roanoke Regional Tennis Hall of Fame inductees. She began playing tennis at age 12, and played regularly for 80 years. Her daughter Sharon Stanley said she went everyday in the summer to watch the tennis courts at Fishburn Park while they were being completed. Her first racquet was a gift from her aunt and cost $2.00. And, the racquet did not even have a grip wrap! The balls were 10 cents apiece in 1937, so she had to wait for someone to hit a ball over the fence so she could retrieve it later. She was self-taught, never had a professional lesson and began playing with mostly boys in the neighborhood, or at school.
She won the Jefferson High School Tournament in 1941 and 1942.
Juanita competed in the various State tournaments held in Bethesda, MD, Charlottesville, VA, and The Greenbrier in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.
Juanita won the Roanoke City-County Women’s Singles Championship seven times– 1946-1951, and again in 1960. She also won 4 doubles championships in 1948, 1949, 1951 and 1960.
She was a finalist in the Virginia State Women’s tournament in Singles and Doubles in 1951.
Stanley breezed through many of her matches to become the champion– according to articles written about her in The Roanoke Times during the 1940s and ’50s.
In October 1958 Juanita was elected to the Board of Directors for the Roanoke Valley Tennis Association which was established to promote the Roanoke Invitational Tennis Tournament, and to offer a supervised tennis program for youngsters.
She played until 2017 (she was 92 ½) when she stopped due to her daughter/partner breaking her arm. She then reluctantly hung up her collection of more than 45 tennis racquets.
On November 22, 1999 The Roanoke Times published “Sports of Our Times” (1940-1949)– this was a spotlight on the top ten best athletes of the decade. Sam Snead was No. 1 and the Best of the Rest included Bill Dudley and others. Juanita was named Number 8. And was the only woman recognized in the field of 10 for that entire decade! The article said,
“Stanley won seven Roanoke City County Tennis Championships, including six straight from 1946 to her competitive retirement in 1951. She said her toughest match came against her younger sister, Wanda, a 9-6, 9-7 victory.” “We we both so totally exhausted that our mother had to put us both to bed,” Juanita said in 1996.
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