Her Dominance Paved The Way for Serena, Coco, and Naomi

Abeni Jones
September 23, 2019

Althea Gibson was athletic from a young age. First training in boxing and paddle ball, then running away from home at age 13 in favor of street fighting, she took up tennis reluctantly. 

“I really wasn’t the tennis type,” she wrote. “I kept wanting to fight the other player.”

Regardless, she was a natural, and with her aggressive style began winning  tournaments. But she struggled to get allowed to play in whites-only competitions.

Eventually she did - she was the first Black player to compete at Wimbledon!

A few years after that? She won it, and the U.S. Open, two years back-to-back! After her Wimbledon win, she even met the Queen of England.

"Ain't that a blip," she said, "that a Harlem street rebel would go on to become a world tennis champion?"

Despite her achievements, Gibson made almost no money from tennis. She was nearly destitute in her later years.

But the legacy she’s left is untouchable - and it’s finally being recognized.

Serena Williams cites Gibson as her inspiration. And the other hottest players in tennis right now are Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff, both young Black women!

Though Althea Gibson never got her props during her life, this year a statue was erected in her honor at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, where the U.S. Open is played. It’s about time.

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