Black Tennis: Past, Present, and Future

By Anyla McDonald The Black Lens Contributer

As I sat at my black desktop within my living room floor, with my notepad on

my right side, my pen within my right hand, with my sticky notes scattered against the wall, and Teddy Pendergrass playing on my bluetooth speaker in the background. My brain cells start to scan through all the black tennis players in our generation. At this moment, I felt as though I was scanning

a QR code, the back of my debit card, or the barcode to my grocery items. Through this  process of skimming, browsing, and searching. I squinted at phenomenal individuals like Serena Williams, Venus Williams, CoCo Gauff, Taylor Townsend, Sachia Vickery, Naomi Osaka, Bryan Shelton, Frances Tiaofe,and Madison Keys.

About 10 minutes later, my brain peaks and blinks through a historical figure within African American tennis history. That amalgamated and consolidated the impending propagations probability to set the tone for the new African Americans children’s children. So that they could have the aptitude and potency to break new records within tennis history. This African American woman contained strands that curled like ribbons, nostrils as wide as the top of a spoon, eyes that were shaped like a peanut, eyebrows that were thick as dough but as slim as a stick, full lips that were shaped like a rainbow and as pulp as a peach, eyelashes as tiny as a bead, with a mole placed under her bottom lip that reminded me of a tiny rolly polly, with teeth as white as a cotton flower or a daisy, with ears as pointed as the tip of a pencil or the spikes that rest upon a cactus, and with legs that extend like a giraffe or a flamingo. Her name was Althea Neale Gibson!

Althea was one of the first black athletes to intersect the pigment line of worldwide tennis. While also becoming the first African American to win a Grand Slam occurrence. She was even the African American on the LPGA tour and she was inaugurated into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971 as well. Then soon interpolated and intercalated into the Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1980. She was ceaselessly remunerated and acclaimed for her ascendancy in winning five grand slam tournaments as she progressed. All because she decided to push through, even when lighter individuals repudiated her from putting her black hands on their tennis racks, tennis balls, and black feet on their tennis courts. Praying that she would never have the feasibility to contend against a race that was pale. Because of them not viewing her as laudable enough, light enough, felicitous enough, or meritorious. Just because she didn’t have fair skin, straight hair, blonde hair, flat lips, and a narrow nose.

That is and will be the chocolate wax museum, caramel silhouette, and mocha mannequin of tennis. That will become the brown statues of liberties, holding on to the fire that electrifies within them. As they begin swinging their tennis rackets, running across tennis courts, throwing tiny tennis balls in the air, and wiping the sweat that flows through their scalps onto the flesh upon their foreheads. Wearing the fabric that hangs and yells out with power. Clinging on to the tablet that upholds the map to glory. As their torch reboots the energy within their right and left arm muscles. Wearing the hat that protects them from the sun’s gaze and the rain drops that drip from the heavens up above. Completely withholding the declaration of independence in Roman numerals: July 4, 1776. Representing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This experience has taken me on an adventure of planting a spotlight on the black tennis players that elate little black boys and girls in today’s world. Which helps me to better treasure and honor the adherence that these individuals put in. Even while enduring racial tautness and ignominious backlash. That happened over 30 years ago and has continued to happen now in 2024. That happens just to be worded differently, covered up with giggles, covered up with fake smiles, and stored within hidden news. With the intent of stripping them of their perseverance, willpower, and notoriety. But still they rise and walk the walk. In the most blackity black form, that will forever be remembered as blacknificient!