Ever since Althea Gibson first stamped her authority on the game, tennis has seen many powerfully talented African-American female athletes grace the courts of the biggest tournaments on the calendar. From the Australian Open to Wimbledon, tennis has been dominated by names like Althea Gibson, Zina Garrison and Serena Williams.
With the Australian Open
in full swing, we’ve put together a list of some of the most outstanding African-American female tennis champions to grace the game.
Image source: Pbs.org
Althea Gibson made history when, in 1950, she became the first African-American to play in an international tennis
tournament. Six years later, Gibson went on to become the first African-American player to win a Grand Slam title when she won the French Open.
In 1957 and 1958, Gibson won at Wimbledon and the US Nationals and became the No.1 ranked women’s player before calling time on her tennis career. But that wouldn’t be the last sports fans saw of Althea Gibson, she would go on to become the first African-American golfer
in the Ladies Professional Golf Association in 1964.
In total, Gibson won 11 Grand Slams, which included five singles titles, five doubles titles and one mixed doubles title. Althea Gibson was later inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Image source: Digitaljournal.com
Zina Garrison started playing tennis at the age of 10 and won her first tournament at age 14, beating girls four-years her senior. In 1981, Garrison won both the Wimbledon and US Open junior titles and was ranked the world No.1 junior player.
Garrison was extremely successful on the tennis court, and managed to reach the Australian Open semifinals in her first full year on tour. In 1984, Garrison won the European Indoor Championships in Zurich – her first top-level singles title.
Overall, Zina Garrison won three mixed doubles Grand Slam titles, a singles bronze medal and a doubles gold medal at the 1988 Olympic Games. However, Garrison was often compared to Althea Gibson, which put her under immense pressure. She later stated in an interview that being labelled the “next Althea Gibson” made her feel as if she would never be recognised for her own identity.
Image source: ESPN.com
Often overshadowed by her younger sister, Serena, Venus Williams thouroughly deserves her space in the spotlight.
Having first taken up tennis at the age of 5, Venus Williams turned pro at the age of 14 and has since made a name for herself both on, and off the tennis court. From winning the US Open and Wimbledon, to fighting for equal prize money for women at Wimbledon, Venus Williams leaves a positive impression wherever she goes.
Often referred to as the greatest grass court player of her generation, Williams’ five Wimbledon titles are testament to just how good she is on grass. She has also won the US Open on two consecutive occasions, the first of which she won in 2000 and defended a year later in 2001.
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Added to her brimming trophy cabinet are 14 women’s doubles Grand Slam titles and two mixed doubles Grand Slams. She also holds four Olympic gold medals, one in singles and three in women’s doubles.
Despite being plagued by injury throughout the back-end of her career, Venus Williams has continuously fought back and shown just how great she is. While, at the age of 38, her career might be drawing to a close, she will always be remembered as one of the greatest female tennis players of all time.
Image source: usatoday.com
This list would not be complete without arguably the greatest female tennis player of all time – Serena Williams. There is no doubt that she would deserve her place on the list of the greatest tennis players to have ever played the game, including men.
With 39 Grand Slam titles, Williams holds the most Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles combined amongst active players, and is joint third on the all-time list. Her 23 Grand Slam singles titles is the most won by an individual in the Open Era.
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In addition to her seven Australian Open and Wimbledon titles, three French Open titles, and six US Open titles, Serena Williams also holds four Olympic gold medals – one in singles and three in women’s doubles.
Not far from controversy, Williams stands her ground on the court and is not afraid to do the same off it. That, however, will not overshadow her total domination of the sport over the last decade. There is no doubt that Serena Williams will be a name that will go down in history and will be remembered for centuries to come.
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