Tennis Legend Althea Gibson To Be Honored At U.S. Open

By Off The BASN Sports Wire
Updated: August 24, 2007

N EW YORK — -Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Aretha Franklin, Carol Moseley Braun and other pioneering black women will come together on the U.S. Open’s opening night to celebrate the legacy of late tennis star Althea Gibson.

The USTA is commemorating the 50th anniversary of Ms. Gibson’s historic title at the U.S. National Championships. In 1957, she became the first black tennis player, male or female, to win the tournament, which became the Open.

“Tennis has its own Jackie Robinson, and we want to tell the world the story,”‘ said Arlen Kantarian, the USTA’s chief executive of pro tennis.

Gibson will also be inducted into the U.S. Open Court of Champions, based on the result of an international media vote, during the Aug. 27 ceremony.

Titled “Breaking Barriers,”‘ the tribute to Gibson will feature trailblazers in the worlds of sports, entertainment, politics and the arts. Franklin, the first black woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, will perform.

Among the other women scheduled to participate are Joyner-Kersee, the Olympic track and field champion; Braun, the former U.S. Senator; Phylicia Rashad, the “Cosby Show’” actress; former WNBA star and current Prairie View A&M women’s hoop coach Cynthia Cooper; Winter Olympians Vonetta Flowers and Debi Thomas; tennis player Zina Garrison; astronaut Mae Jemison; and BET co-founder Sheila Johnson.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Billie Jean King and Rachel Robinson, Jackie Robinson’s widow, are also expected to attend.

The tribute has been more than six months in the making, Kantarian said, and its scope grew as other trailblazing women responded with great enthusiasm to the idea.

“Once we reached out and began to let people know what we were thinking of doing, we were overwhelmed with all those who wanted to be a part of this ceremony,”‘ he said.

Gibson broke the color barrier in tennis in 1950 and went on to win 11 Grand Slam titles. She died in 2003 at the age of 76.