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The Tennis Podcast

US Open Re-Lived: Althea Gibson

Ep. 717

In this special edition of Tennis Re-Lived, we examine the life, career and legacy of Althea Gibson, the first black player to compete in and win Grand Slam titles.

We cover her early life growing up in Harlem, her development as a tennis player under the guidance of Dr Eaton and Dr Johnson, Alice Marble’s influential letter challenging the USLTA’s whites-only culture, Gibson’s dramatic first appearance at the US Nationals at Forest Hills in 1950, her friendship and doubles partnership with Angela Buxton, her US Open and Wimbledon titles in 1957 and 1958, the way tennis turned its back on her, and the desperately sad final few decades of her life as she lived in poverty.

We also speak to people who knew her to get a sense of what she was like. Tennis historian Steve Flink tells us what made her such a good player, journalist Richard Evans remembers taking her to the Wimbledon ball, Mary Carillo recounts the first time she met Gibson and the WTA’s emergency meeting to raise funds for her, Zina Garrison looks back on her final encounter with Gibson, and Leslie Allen talks in depth about her experience of being a black person in tennis.

What was it like following in Gibson’s footsteps and constantly being compared to her? How did racism in tennis manifest itself during her career? And how did Allen feel at the unveiling of Gibson’s statue at last year’s US Open?

The Tennis Podcast is presented by Catherine Whitaker and David Law, and features Matt Roberts. It is produced weekly year-round, and daily during the Grand Slam tournaments. It is crowdfunded by listeners each December.

Coming soon: Tennis Re-Lived: Arthur Ashe and daily US Open podcasts. 

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