Amplify is USTA Florida’s long-term initiative to engage and amplify Black voices throughout the Florida tennis community. The initiative is a product of numerous open discussions among staff, coaches and volunteers that have identified areas where USTA Florida can, and must, do more to advance racial equality in tennis. The experience below was shared through this project to help USTA Florida gain valuable feedback and input from our Black communities, so that we may work alongside them to develop meaningful, actionable ways to address inequalities.

Etienne Aduya

“Growing up in Grand Rapids, Mich., I started playing tennis around 10 years old. My dad would take us to the nearby park and hit balls with us, and my sister and I would hit with each other as well. The lessons were primarily for my sister, as she was the one who went on to take tennis lessons. For myself, baseball and football were the main sports I played growing up, although I did play for my middle school tennis team.

I ended up playing college football, yet despite this tennis was and will always be one of my passions. I love the individuality of the sport, as well as the life values and lessons it teaches. I love that it is a sport of a lifetime and that you can always improve and work on something. Although you are competing against others, you are also competing against yourself to be the best tennis player you can be, just as I try in life to be the version of myself.

The first time I remember watching tennis on TV was back in 2008 or 2009 when Venus and Serena Williams played each other in the Wimbledon final. They are the reason that I really started getting into tennis, which just goes to show how important representation is: seeing people like yourself in the media can influence your life, your passions, etc. Having read about the history of tennis, I’ve read about other important black tennis figures such as Arthur Ashe, Althea Gibson, Zina Garrison, James Blake, Chanda Rubin, and watching the game today I see players such as Francis Tiafoe (racquets down, hands up), Michael Mmoh, Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Taylor Townsend, Coco Gauff, and the list goes on. I thank all these figures as well for the mark they have left and are leaving on the game, and for paving the way for the black community into tennis.

Currently, I live in the Tampa Bay, Fla. area and before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was playing at my local tennis center, attending clinics, playing ladder leagues as well as playing in a USTA league and the Ultimate Tennis League. Since the pandemic, I’ve been reflecting on what has been happening in this country to Black people for so long, as well as self-reflecting about what I can do as a Black man to help make a difference in terms of equity, inclusion and diversity in my workplace as well as in the tennis community. I have recently found and am looking to volunteer for the American Tennis Association (ATA), a black tennis organization that develops, promotes and showcases opportunities through tennis in diverse communities, having served the tennis community for 100 years.

Tennis is a sport that I know I’ll be playing for the rest of my life, and I want to do everything I can to make it inclusive and equal for people like me, and give back as tennis has given me so much joy and happiness in my life. Even if sharing my story helps just one Black person get into tennis or start to become interested in tennis, I will feel that I’ve helped to make a difference.”

– Etienne Aduya

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