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Old Jul 25th, 2004, 08:08 AM   #12
country flag Brian Stewart
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51. Angela Mortimer
GS titles won: A-S-1958; F-S-1955; W- S-1961; D-1955

Mortimer was known for accurate, consistent groundstrokes, albeit without much power, and clever tactical play. Defeated the popular crowd favorite Christine Truman to claim her Wimbledon title. Was the #1 player in the world in 1961.

Did you know-- Mortimer did not start playing tennis until she was 15.

52. Darlene Hard
GS titles won: F- S-1960; D- 1955, 57, 60; M- 1955, 61; W- D- 1957, 59, 60, 63; M- 1957, 59, 60; U- S- 1960, 61; D- 1958-62, 69

53. Australian mini-strike of 1956
At the 1956 Australian Championships, rain had caused a backlog of matches. When the first women's semifinal between Thelma Long and Mary Hawton went to 9-7 in the 3rd, officials tried to catch up the schedule by moving the second women's semi between Mary Carter and Daphne Seeney to an outer court. The women refused, saying they had been scheduled for Centre Court, the crowd was expecting them there, and that was the only place they'd play. Besides, Long had already gotten to play her semi on Centre, and get used to the court before the final; it wouldn't be fair to the other finalist. The officials relented, and put them back on Centre Court. Unfortunately for Seeney, just as she was getting into the match in the second set, she dislocated her right kneecap. She strapped it up and finished the match, but was unable to overcome this handicap.

54. Althea Gibson
GS titles won: A-D-1957; F- S-1956; D-1956; W- S- 1957, 58; D- 1956-58; U- S- 1957, 58; M-1957

Barrier breaking player who was the first African-American to play in a grand slam event, and the first to win one. Her success opened the door for Arthur Ashe and Bonnie Logan in the 60's, and a steady stream of players starting in the 1970's. An aggressive serve-and-volley player, Gibson began a string of S/V #1's which included Bueno, Court, and King. As with her contemporary Jackie Robinson, Gibson was greeted with hostility by the crowds, and the cold shoulder from opponents. From an openly hostile crowd at the 1950 US Nationals, which loudly encouraged her opponent to "knock her out of there", to unfriendly greetings at Wimbledon as defending champ in 1958. When Gibson was first permitted to play USTA events, she wasn't even allowed to use the dressing rooms. And while things gradually improved over the years, cultural changes in the country club set take time. Even a quarter century after Gibson's last major championship, the LTA wouldn't allow Zina Garrison and Lori McNeil to use the practice courts. And a dozen years after that, Wimbledon officials refused to allow Chanda Rubin to bring a parent in literally seconds after allowing a white player to bring in a non-coaching parent.

After Gibson won Wimbledon, she was offered a tickertape parade through the streets of New York. She accepted only on the condition that blacks and whites be allowed to attend together, and not segregated. After the 1958 US Championships, Gibson retired from amateur tennis and turned pro, as she couldn't make ends meet. When the pro tour ended, she tried her hand at golf, becoming the first African American on the LPGA Tour. Gibson made a brief return to tennis in the open era. She was originally in the qualifying draw for the 1973 US Open, but withdrew. She served as a public official in New Jersey, before eventually withdrawing from public life. Unfortunately, that withdrawal would prove the old adage "out of sight, out of mind", as Gibson was largely forgotten. Many even erroneously credited Ashe as the first African American to win a GS title.

Did you know-- until Lindsay Davenport claimed the #1 spot in 1998, Gibson had been the tallest woman to hold the #1 ranking.

55. American Tennis Association
Shortly after the sport of tennis came to the United States, various clubs and tournaments sprang up. It soon became clear that these would be reserved only for white people. So, the African-American tennis enthusiasts had to form their own clubs. Soon, there were tournaments organized, with the first black champion crowned in Philadelphia in 1898. Eventually, it was decided to form an umbrella organization, much like the USLTA. So it came to pass that on November 30th, 1916, at the YMCA in Washington, DC, that the American Tennis Association was formed. The following August, the ATA held its first National tournament in Baltimore, with the first singles titles going to Tally Holmes and Lucy Slowe. But the ATA was about more than just gathering black tennis clubs together under one organization. They made it a mission to find and nurture promising youngsters, hopeful that some day, one would be allowed into the US National Championships. This barrier breaker proved to be Althea Gibson, who was the ATA's all-time greatest champion, capturing 10 consecutive titles. She was followed by Arthur Ashe. Since then, a succession of talented players have felt the ATA's nurturing influence, including Leslie Allen, Zina Garrison, Lori McNeil, Rodney Harmon, Katrina Adams, Jeri Ingram, and Chanda Rubin. And these players, in turn, have enriched the USTA's talent pool. Most have gone on to contribute to people of all colors, well beyond the confines of the tennis court, thus becoming some of tennis' greatest ambassadors, and some of sport's greatest citizens.

Last edited by Brian Stewart : Oct 23rd, 2004 at 09:27 AM.
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