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shirley_c_taylorShirley Taylor, who grew up in Johnsonville, South Carolina, didn’t play tennis until she was 40.

At the time, she was playing golf a few days a week but wanted to participate in a more active sport. Taylor was so eager to learn tennis that she’d drive 45 minutes to Florence, South Carolina, where the nearest teaching professional resided, for the occasional lesson.

Taylor, however, was not an overnight success.

During her first tournament, she lost to a teenager, 6-0, 6-0. “And it wasn’t even that close,” she said.

But she stuck with the sport, winning only one game some matches and two games during other contests. “I was thrilled to death to win two games,” she said.

Her persistence paid off. Eight years after she started playing, Taylor won her first South Carolina State Championship. She has since won more than 25 USTA Southern championships, where players from nine states can participate. Taylor also has been ranked No. 1 in her age group for much of the past 20 years. Twice – in 1995 and 2010 – she was named the USTA South Carolina Adult Female Player of the Year.

“Maybe a lot of people when they’re beaten that bad, (think) oh, let’s just give that up. This isn’t that fun,” Taylor said. “I just loved playing. I knew I had the ability to do better. You can’t get better if you don’t practice and I practiced.”
Taylor also never let winning change how she acted on court. She has won multiple sportsmanship awards from tournaments.

“I believe in being a lady on the court and respecting your opponent and behaving yourself,” Taylor said. “I would play the best I would play but I would also respect my opponent and certainly give her credit for playing well.”
Taylor, 81, and now lives in Garden City, South Carolina, where she still picks up her racquet and heads to the courts.
“It’s been a real blessing and fun and all those good things,” she said, “and of course, I’m still playing.”