Two week ago, Venus Williams captured her 4th Wimbleddon Ladies' singles title, and, as Mad Professah notes, that victory comes exactly 50 years "after Althea Gibson [left] became the first African American tennis player to win a major title." It may seem that blacks have finally arrived in tennis, but, more recent events may suggest otherwise. In The Sunday New York Times, writer/columnist Touré reviews Charging the Net, a fascinating history of blacks in tennis:
[The] wide-ranging history, built on more than 65 interviews, tells in-depth stories about the lives of black tennis stars like Venus and Serena; Arthur Ashe; Althea Gibson, the Wimbledon champ from Harlem who ended up broke, reclusive and bitter; and Zina Garrison, the Wimbledon finalist who, during her career, was dragged down by bulimia and a husband who, she says, encouraged her to stay on the tour so he could continue his affair with one of her friends.[...]
Racism [is] a recurring theme, arguing that it has dealt a devastating blow to black tennis dreams. They write, 'The unspoken but persistent vibe that you are not welcome, that others would be happier if you went away, a vibe that black tennis players have sensed on the main tour for decades, makes it difficult to find the rhythm and comfort zone needed to perform at your best.' Leslie Allen, who played on the women’s tour in the ’80s, when players frequently stayed with host families rather than in hotels, says housing was often hard to find: 'I’d go to a tournament where the family wanted to house the No. 1 seed. But when that family found out that the No. 1 seed was me, then suddenly the housing disappeared.'"
There is also a companion review to tennis ace James Blake's new memoir. Touré is not very impressed the athlete's autobiography, noting that Blake "glosses over the subject of race" in general and in particular, his infamous moment at the United States open his "when his opponent, Lleyton Hewitt, suggested that a black linesman was making calls in favor of Blake because of their shared race." Thankfully, Blake expands upon that story to the authors of Charging the Net.
Some Background ...