Althea Gibson

From Tennis Confidential by Paul Fein (published in 1999):

“Given the same chance as others have had, blacks would dominate our sport as they have in other sports”, asserted Arthur Ashe, tennis first black men’s champion, in 1968.

For the first half of the twentieth century, blacks had no chance to compete at, let alone dominate, world-class tournaments. A major reason for this racial discrimination was that white athletes in tennis and other sports were afraid of competing on an equal basis with blacks.

“For 120 years, white America has gone to extraordinay lengths to discredit and discourage black participation in sports because black athletes have been so successful,” Ashe wrote in a New York times column.

In the not-so-good old days, the “Whites only” signs on tennis courts didn’t refer only to clothes. To end that separate but unequal segregation and to promote the grassroots game among black Americans, the American Tennis Association was organized in 1916. Before the ATA, black players, chiefly from the Northeast, participated in invitational interstate tournaments, the first being staged in Philadelphia in 1898. But since blacks were barred from playing in United States Lawn Tennis Association – sanctioned tournaments prior to 1940, the ATA struggled for years to ovecome that towering barrier to equality.

Despite a shortage of rackets, balls, courts, topflight coaching and funds for travel, outstanding black players such as Ora Washington, Jimmie McDaniel, and Oscar Johnson Jr emerged. Washington, a superb all-around athlete, captured seven straight ATA national women’s singles titles from 1929 to 1935.
McDaniel was “the greatest black tennis player of them all,” according to Sydney Llewellyn, a self-described archivist of black tennis from New York’s Harlem neighborhood. “McDaniel was better than Ashe. He was bigger, stronger,” Llewellyn told Tennis USTA. “He was a tall lefty, maybe 6’5. He’d take etwo steps and be all over the net. He had it all. He would have won a bunch of Grand Slams somewhere along the line, if he had had the chance.”

He didn’t because his heyday, albeit an obscure one, ended in the 1940s. Johnson dubbed “the Jackie Robinson of tennis”, came closer. As a skinny seventeen-year-old from Los Angeles, he broke ground as the first black to play in and win a USLTA national tournament, the 1948 National Junior Public Parks. Five years later promoter Jack Kramer offered Johnson a pro contact, but a snapped ebow tendon prematurely finished his career.

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Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams are among 13 athletes featured in Nike’s new “Find your Fast” campaign.

Nike’s “Find Your Fast” campaign brings together some of the planet’s beacons of speed to inspire athletes to run or train for their fastest time this summer. Whether preparing for a first mile or looking to shave seconds or minutes off a personal record, all athletes can get faster.

“Fast in tennis means always being in the point. No matter what an opponent sends my way I can get it. Because you can’t hit what you can’t reach!” – Serena Williams

Serena Williams, Find your fast campaign

“Being fast in tennis is everything. If I’m quicker to the ball I’m in greater control and I can exert my will on the match and the opponent. Fast wins matches. I want everything about me on court to be fast.” – Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal, Find your fast campaign

More Nike news.

Serena Williams NikeCourt Flare shoe

Engineered specifically for Serena Williams, the NikeCourt Flare delivers stability through a lightweight, minimal design. The shoe, designed by Aaron Cooper at Nike, was created in response to Serena’s ankle issues.

“At the time, I was having issues rolling my ankle,” Williams says. “So I wanted to create a shoe that would give me a lot of stability and make me a better player.”

According to Cooper, the silhouette was inspired by the collection of KOBE signature shoes, kung fu masters and the idea of footwear being an extension of the body.

“Serena was looking for a shoe with more stability that was bigger and more built up,” Cooper says. “What she actually needed was the complete opposite; something that was less built up and with a lower profile. She needed something that would really work with her as a second skin.”

NikeCourt Flare shoe

NikeCourt Flare shoe

The NikeCourt flare will be Serena Williams’ tennis shoe for Wimbledon.

“This shoe really is an extension of my foot,” Williams says. “And when you think about it, if you’re at home in your house and you don’t have shoes on, you just don’t think about anything else. It’s just your body. And that’s what this shoe is all about.”

Serena Williams NikeCourt Flare shoes

Learn more about the design process:

The NikeCourt Flare, a women’s only model, is now available in select Nike retailers and on nike.com/nikecourt.

Roland Garros 2015

I spent a great few days at Roland Garros this year, I tried to share my experience live via my new instagram account @tennisbuzzlive, I hope you enjoyed it. Here’s a recap of my Roland Garros 2015 in 15 instagrams.

1- May 21st, my first day at Roland Garros 2015, the third day of the qualifyings. Few people in the alleys, a relaxed atmosphere, a different way to enjoy the Roland Garros stadium before the actual start of the tournament.

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2- My first RG15 match: German hope Alexander Zverev vs Igor Sijsling.

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3- Defending champion Maria Sharapova hard at work, I really enjoy watching players at practice, interacting with their teams and fans. More pics of Maria Sharapova at Roland Garros 2015.

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Serena Williams poses with Roland Garros trophy

Serena Williams with Roland Garros trophy

Following her hard-fought win over Lucie Safarova in the Roland Garros final, Serena Williams posed with her trophy in front of the Eiffel Tower for the delight of the photographs and the fans. A big thanks to Loic for the pics.

Also read:
Roland Garros 2015 coverage
Serena Williams at Hotel Royal Monceau
Roland Garros 2014: Maria Sharapova with trophy
Roland Garros 2013: Serena Williams with trophy