The Greatest in the Game
1 year ago
A look at the Greatest Black Tennis Players of today and yesterday
With the U.S. Open under way, and Venus Williams’s recent announcement about her health raising questions about how much longer the Williams era in tennis will last, we thought it was a good time to reflect on the greatest black tennis players. Below a ranking, beginning with the greatest of all-time, followed by those striving to solidify their place among the greats today.
1) Serena Williams (1981-the present)
Not only considered one of the greatest female tennis players in history, Serena Williams is considered one of the most successful athletes of any race or gender in American history. She is the highest-earning women’s tennis player ever in terms of prize money (without even calculating endorsements), and the fourth highest earning tennis player of either gender. With more than 27 Grand Slam titles total (13 singles titles, 12 doubles and 2 mixed doubles) she is the most successful player currently on the tennis circuit and considered to be in the top ten most successful of all time. In a word, she’s fierce.
2) Arthur Ashe (1943-1993)
Ashe is not only one of the greatest African-American players ever, but one of the greatest to ever play the game. He was the first black man to win a Grand Slam tournament, winning three as a singles player (Wimbledon, US Open, Australian Open) and two as a doubles player (French Open and Australian Open.) He was also the first African-American selected to the U.S. Davis Cup team, which he served as Captain of following his retirement as a player. But Ashe’s greatest legacy may be his role as an AIDS advocate. Upon contracting the disease during a transfusion for heart surgery, he founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation to Defeat AIDS. The year of his death Sports Illustrated Magazine named him “Sportsman of the Year.”
3) Althea Gibson (1927-2003)
Called “the Jackie Robinson of tennis,” Gibson opened the door for the Williams sisters and all other black tennis players who have since followed. Though she won three Grand Slam tournaments (The French Open in 1956 and the US Open and Wimbledon in 1957 and 1958), because there was no prize money or endorsement deals for female players on what was then considered the amateur circuit, she struggled financially and with health problems later in life. Without Gibson’s knowledge her former doubles partner had a letter published in a tennis publication explaining Gibson’s plight and the discreet campaign raised more than a million dollars for the tennis legend. On the 50th anniversary of her victory there, she was inducted into the US Open Court of Champions.