A report from the Baltimore African-American on Al's first major triumph. LOL at her bra snapping and the French reaction.
1956 – Althea Gibson Wins French Open
Baltimore Afro-American, June 2, 1956
Long before there was Arthur Ashe, or the Williams sisters, Althea Gibson made her mark on professional tennis as its first African-American champion and she bore the burden of her race in the reactions of the largely white crowds in the stands.
PARIS, France – Althea Gibson completed her sweep of pre-Wimbledon Tennis tournaments Saturday, by capturing the Women’s Singles Finals of the Paris Championships at Roland Garros Stadium.
A crowd of 12,500 saw Miss Gibson conquer Angela Mortimer, of Great Britain, 6-0, 12-10, to gain her 13th title – and 7th in succession – since embarking on a tour of Asia and Europe last December.
The straight set victory over Miss Mortimer served to erase the only setback the New York star suffered on the entire junket. Angela defeated Althea in India at the outset of the trip, and over the years had been the victor in all three of her previous meetings.
To attain the finals in this last buildup tournament before the celebrated Wimbledon championships, Miss Gibson had been forced to overcome a series of unfavorable crowd reactions and fight off a mild case of personal bitterness.
In her Friday semi-finals with Angela Buxton, of Great Britain, the slender Harlem racqueter ran into vocal criticism she had not expected.
Although she realized that the assemblage of 1,000 partisans would understandably be rooting for her European rival, Miss Gibson was visibly annoyed when the Frenchmen booed her scoring rallies and loudly applauded her errors.
The climax was reached, however, when Althea accidentally broke a shoulder strap and the crowd roared.
Miss Buxton saved the day for European sportsmanship and restored Miss Gibson’s calm by rushing immediately to Althea’s side and escorting her to the dressing room.
Miss Gibson then went on to take the match, 2-6, 6-0, 6-4.
Earlier, the American ace had beaten another British Wightman Cup team member, Shirley Bloomer, 6-2, 6-1.
The Misses Mortimer and Buxton also are on the English cup squad