Tennis is a popular sport that many people follow. Did you know that some of the most respected tennis greats in history were Black? We’re not just talking about the Williams sisters – but some of the tennis players who paved the way for Black athletes to join the sport were, in fact, Black.
6 Black Tennis Players Who Had Great Careers
Let’s take a look at six of the most incredible Black tennis players who certainly dominated the sport.
1. Althea Gibson
Althea Gibson may be regarded as the best-known Black tennis player, and certainly made headlines as a Black female tennis player. Gibson developed a love for tennis at a young age. Sadly, during the 1940s and 1950s, most tournaments and championships were close to Black players.
Gibson persevered. She continued to play and win until her skills could not be ignored. She was the first African American player to participate in the U.S. National Championship in 1950. She then became the first Black tennis player to compete at Wimbledon in 1951. In 1957, she won the singles and doubles at Wimbledon. Then, in 1958, she won the U.S. Open.
2. Arthur Ashe
Arthur Ashe is another tennis player whose name is synonymous with breakout tennis stars. Ashe is heralded by many as the best Black male tennis player of all time. During his early life, Ashe played many sports, including football and basketball. But his love of tennis is what led him to UCLA with a full scholarship. Ashe was the first Black student to be placed on the Davis Cup Team, and he led them to victory.
Later in life, Ashe would go on to win the NCAA singles title, the U.S. Open, the Grand Slams, and Wimbledon. He also reached the finals in the Australian Open. In 1983, Ashe was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame. The stadium that currently houses the U.S. Open was named after him.
3. James Blake
James Blake learned to play tennis when he was a child, along with his brother. He played tennis throughout his school days and even heard Arthur Ashe speak at a clinic. Blake attended Harvard after high school, and that is where his tennis career began. In 2006, Blake placed fourth in the ATP rankings. He has also reached three quarterfinals during his career – one in Australia, and two at the U.S. Open.
4. Serena Williams
Serena Williams is one of the most well-known and loved tennis players of all time. She has set and broken records on numerous occasions and has won nearly every tournament she has played. Along with her sister, Venus, Williams has won 11 Grand Slam doubles titles, and 12 singles titles, during her career. She also won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 1998.
Williams stands second to Althea Gibson as the second Black woman to ever achieve the “women’s athlete of the decade” title. While her career continues, Williams is already considered one of the best tennis players of all time.
5. Venus Williams
We can’t leave Venus Williams off of our list of incredible Black tennis players. Like her sister, Serena, Venus has won 11 Grand Slam doubles titles. She has also won 7 singles titles and has an Olympic gold medal. Williams still has an active career and is expected to continue making waves in the sport.
6. Donald Young
Donald Young is a young Black tennis player who frequently makes headlines for his spirit and tenacity on the court. Young began playing tennis when he was just three years old. His love of the sport has never wavered. He played numerous tournaments as a junior, then went pro in 2004. In 2005, he was ranked No. 1 in the world as a junior player. In 2012, Young ranked No. 38 in the world by ATP. By 2011, he reached the fourth place at the U.S. Open. In 2017, he reached the finals at the French Open.
Throughout the history of the sport, there have been incredible Black athletes helping change the industry and open doors for future athletes. While our list only highlights six tennis players, there are certainly more who dominate the sport, or who are preparing to take the tennis world by storm.