Let’s Honor And Look Back On Black Tennis Players Who Have Changed History

As black tennis players are currently competing in the Dubai Tennis Championship like Coco Gauff and Sloane Stephens, it’s important to also look back on the great black history in tennis. 

Over 100 years ago in 1917, Lucy Diggs Slowe became the first African-American in any sport to win a national title when she won the first women’s title at the American Tennis Association’s (ATA) national tournament. A little over 30 years after Diggs Slowe, Althea Gibson would become the first black tennis player to compete in the U.S. National Championships in 1950. Although she grew a strong love for tennis in the early 1940s, Gibson wasn’t allowed to fully play as she desired due to racism and segregation. Gibson broke many color barrier lines as she pushed for changing the narrative in not only American sports but in society in general. In 1956 she would win the French Championships women’s singles tournament; which made Gibson the first African-American to win a Grand Slam title. Following the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in 1968 Arthur Ashe would become the first and only black man to win the singles title at the US Open, Wimbledon, and the Australian Open.

Fast forward to sisters Venus and Serena Williams, who are two of the most decorated tennis players in history, dominated the 90s and 2000s in the sport. Many players, especially the Williams sisters, would continue to fight for equality in their sport and stand for what’s right. In 2018, a “cartoon” drawing was drawn of Serena Williams that depicted a much deeper message than what had happened – racism was still prevalent, especially in sports. While Serena did have frustrations in the moment, her white male counterparts would go as far as breaking their racquets but were never criticized for showing their passion for the sport like Williams was. 

Following in Serena Williams’ steps of greatness, Coco Gauff would become just the third American female teenager to win the US Open Title in 2023 – also the first to do so since Williams accomplished the feat in 1999. Black tennis players have continued to break barriers and make history for over 100 years and look to continue to flourish in the sport.

The American Tennis Association (ATA), the oldest African-American tennis organization in history, should announce its annual national tennis championships later this spring.

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