This documentary details the life of Althea Gibson, the first African American to win The French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open (formerly called the U.S. Nationals). Althea Gibson’s first Grand Slam win was in 1956 at the French Championships (now the French Open) where she became the first person of color to win a Grand Slam title. She won the Wimbledon Women’s singles title in 1957 and 1958. She won the U.S. Open Women’s singles title in 1957 and 1958.
American Masters presents Althea, premiering nationwide Friday, September 4, 2015 at 9 p.m. during the U.S. Open. The 90-minute documentary reveals the highs and lows of this remarkable athlete whose life and achievements transcend sports and have entered the annals of African American history. From her roots as a sharecropper’s daughter in the cotton fields of South Carolina, to her emergence as the unlikely queen of the highly segregated tennis world in the 1950s, her story is a complex tale of race, class and gender.
In recounting Gibson’s story, the filmmakers were meticulous in finding period imagery, including over 450 vintage photographs. Producer and director Rex Miller weaves this archival visual material and interviews with those who knew Gibson, such as former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, Wimbledon champions Dick Savitt and Billie Jean King (who also serves as one of the film’s executive producers), Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, widow of Arthur Ashe, and more.
People often cite Arthur Ashe as the first African American to win Wimbledon (1975). He was indeed the first African American male to win the men’s singles title, but it was, in fact, Althea Gibson, who was the first African American to cross the color line playing and winning at Wimbledon (1957 and 1958) and at the U.S. Nationals (1957 and 1958 – precursor of the U.S. Open).
Gibson was born in Silver, South Carolina on August 25, 1927. At the age of three, her father moved the family north migrating to Harlem in 1930. Gibson was a tomboy who grew up loving sports, but disliked school so much that she started skipping classes at the age of 12 and, by 18, had dropped out of high school. She played basketball, but “…paddle tennis started it all,” says Gibson, in a clip from a 1984 interview.
She learned to play that sport on the streets, but it was bandleader Buddy Walker, who was also the neighborhood play street director, who introduced her to tennis and The Cosmopolitan Club, a private black tennis club. At the club, she met Fred Johnson, the one-armed coach, who taught her how to play. Under the auspices of the American Tennis Association (ATA), an organization of African American players, she began to develop as a tennis player. It was during this time that she met boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, who would become a friend and mentor.
American Masters: Althea airs tonight (September 4) at 9:00pm EST on your local PBS channel.
Check out the following links for additional information about Althea Gibson:
Serena Williams has done it again. She won the Wimbledon Ladies Final earlier today defeating Garbine Muguruza 6-4, 6-4. This is Queen Serena’s 21st Grand Slam title. She’s one win away from tying Steffi Graf in Grand Slam wins.
Serena Williams won her fourth consecutive Grand Slam title and 21st of her career on Saturday by beating Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain, 6-4, 6-4, at Wimbledon. It is her sixth Wimbledon championship.
Today’s win is also Serena’s 6th Wimbledon Ladies Singles title. Serena is one win away from a Grand Slam (a sweep of tennis’s four major championships in the same calendar year). This year she’s won the Australian Open, the French Open and now Wimbledon. A fourth win a the U.S. Open in September will give her a Grand Slam.
With her victory at Wimbledon, Williams now holds all four Grand Slam singles titles — the so-called Serena Slam, which she also achieved over two seasons in 2002 and 2003.
But neither that run nor this one was the true Grand Slam, which requires a player to win the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the United States Open in the same calendar year.
Only three women have managed it: Maureen Connolly in 1953, Margaret Court in 1970 and Steffi Graf in 1988.
Serena was looking a little shaky in the beginning. Garbine had her number and I wasn’t surprised but it didn’t last long. I watched Garbine in the semifinal match against Agnieszka Radwanska that went back and forth between the two so I knew she would be tough. I was a little nervous watching Serena vs Garbine at first but I was happy to see Serena make her comeback.
You know it’s getting too draining being on pins and needles watching Queen Serena in these matches and yelling at the tv.
It gets too nerve wracking and I have to hide my remote so I won’t change the channel. Will I have to go through this again when the U.S. Open starts later this summer? We will see.
Congrats to Serena and next up is the U.S. Open which starts August 31, 2015.
Earlier today Serena Williams defeated Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-4 in the Wimbledon semifinals. This is Serena’s 17th consecutive win against Maria.
Williams improved to 18-2 all-time against Sharapova, last losing to her in the final of the 2004 Tour Championships (Sharapova also defeated Williams in that year’s Wimbledon final for the first of her five Grand Slam titles). Thursday’s match was just their third ever at Wimbledon and their first since 2010.
Next up for Serena is the Wimbledon Ladies Final against Garbine Muguruza who defeated Agnieszka Radwanska. This will be Garbine’s first Grand Slam.
Congrats to Serena and good luck on Saturday. Looks like the final will start at 9:00am Eastern time Saturday morning.
It’s another win for Serena Williams at Wimbledon. She defeated Victoria Azarenka 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 earlier today at Centre Court. Congrats to Serena!!
I was somewhat nervous after the first set but you know Serena. She always seems to make a comeback.
LONDON — Even as Serena Williams piled up aces and groundstroke winners from all angles, even as she stormed through seven games in a row and 10 of the last 13 in yet another comeback, her Wimbledon quarterfinal against Victoria Azarenka never felt like a runaway.
That’s because Azarenka, a two-time major champion and former No. 1 in her own right, was playing spectacular tennis, too, nearly the equal of Williams in every facet.
For when Williams finds her best game, she becomes unbeatable. And for her past 26 Grand Slam matches she is, indeed, unbeaten. Erasing an early deficit at Centre Court, Williams got past Azarenka 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 Tuesday with the help of 17 aces and a remarkable ratio of 46 winners to 12 unforced errors.
Again I refused to touch my remote. I was determined to sit through the entire match no matter how nervous I was. I did a lot of yelling at the television today. That’s something I usually do when I’m watching the Washington Redskins on tv 😉
Next up for Serena is Maria Sharapova on Thursday. Listening to her loud grunting during her match with CoCo Vandeweghe got on my last nerve. I was rooting for CoCo.
Good luck Serena.
Earlier today Serena Williams defeated her big sis Venus Williams in the 4th round at Wimbledon 6-4 6-3 at Centre Court. Since today was my day off I was able to watch the match live instead of having to wait until later when it’s shown on the Tennis Channel.
LONDON (AP) — Serena Williams extended her mastery over big sister Venus, and kept alive her bid for Grand Slam history.
In the 26th career meeting between the siblings, Serena dominated with her steady serve and big hitting from the back of the court to win 6-4, 6-3 on Centre Court in 1 hour, 8 minutes, extending her Grand Slam winning streak to 25 matches.
The win sent the top-ranked Serena into the Wimbledon quarterfinals as she bids for a fourth straight Grand Slam title, a feat last accomplished by the younger Williams in 2003.
If Serena can triumph again, only the U.S. Open would stand in her way of becoming the first player to complete a calendar-year Grand Slam — a sweep of all four majors in the same season — since Steffi Graf in 1988.
You can tell Serena didn’t really want to celebrate her win against her sister like she does against other opponents and I noticed their mother wasn’t in the stands. Probably too nervous to watch her daughters competing against each other.
Congrats to Serena!!
Next up for Serena is Victoria Azarenka tomorrow on Centre Court. Looks like this match will be starting at 8:00am tomorrow morning Eastern time.
The world No 1 is now just three matches from the ‘Serena Slam’ and plays an opponent she’s beaten in 16 of their 19 matches. Azarenka will have to be at her very best to cause an upset.
Serena and Venus Williams will meet tomorrow (Monday July 6, 2015) in the 4th round of Wimbledon on Centre Court. The match starts at 8:00am Eastern Time.
(CNN) For Serena it’s a vital match in her quest for the grand slam while for Venus it’s maybe her last chance to win Wimbledon.
But for both the Williams, Monday’s sisterly showdown on Centre Court is a match neither is truly relishing.
Serena’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou told CNN that the world number one would indeed rather she be facing another opponent.
“They’re super close so this is not something she likes,” the Frenchman revealed.
“Plus Venus is a super player. She’s been No.1. She’s won many grand slams and she’s super dangerous on grass. But I guess if you want to win a grand slam you have to beat the best players and Venus is one of those. So she will have to beat her if she wants to win here.”
Thanks goodness I’m off tomorrow so I can watch this match. But it’s gonna be bittersweet because I like both Serena and Venus. The last time they met at Wimbledon was in 2009 when Serena defeated Venus in the Ladies Final.
While Serena has been on a Grand Slam winning streak, Venus has been recovering from an auto-immune disease Sjogren’s syndrome which was diagnosed in 2011. Serena almost didn’t make this round after squeaking past British tennis player Heather Watson last Friday. That was a thriller.
Good luck to both ladies.
You can read about the Williams sisters at CNN.com.
I watched an amazing tennis match today between Serena Williams and Heather Watson. It was number 1 vs number 59.
I was on pins and needles watching that match. Great Britain’s Heather Watson had Serena’s number for a while and that made me very nervous. At times I was wondering what is going on with Serena. Does she want to win this? In the third set Serena came back and won 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.
This match nearly gave me a heart attack but it was definitely a thriller. There were times when I was tempted to change the channel but I refused to touch the remote control, lol.
British number one Heather Watson gave top seed Serena Williams a huge scare before losing a thrilling third-round match at Wimbledon.
The 23-year-old battled back from a set down, winning six straight games from 3-3 in the second set.
Watson served for the match at 5-4 in the decider but five-time Wimbledon champion Williams recovered to win 6-2 4-6 7-5 in two hours and 15 minutes.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion will play her elder sister Venus next.
Serena will face her big sister Venus on Monday.
Congrats to Serena!!
I love watching tennis. So while at work I saw on Twitter that one of my favorite tennis players Rafael Nadal lost to some guy named Dustin Brown at Wimbledon. I’m like who? Never heard of him. Talk about an upset. The Tennis Channel will be showing the match tonight. I hope I can stay up to watch.
Rafa hasn’t been doing too well lately. Ranked 102nd in the world, Dustin defeated Rafa 7-5 3-6 6-4 6-4 to reach the third round.
Rafael Nadal was knocked out of Wimbledon in the first week for the third time in four years, bamboozled by the wild but often brilliant game of the qualifier Dustin Brown, a man who spent three years living in a camper van as he travelled Europe trying to earn a living. The German hit numerous drop shots, some unbelievable returns and generally kept the 10th seed off balance and out of kilter, clinching a 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory.
Born in Germany but raised in Jamaica before switching his nationality back to that of his native land in 2010, the dreadlocked, athletic Brown has the kind of unorthodox game that can infuriate many a better player, causing them to lose rhythm.
Congrats to Dustin!!
Next up is Viktor Troicki of Serbia on Saturday.
Congrats to Serena Williams on winning her third Wimbledon title. She defeated her big sis Venus Williams 7-6 (3), 6-2. This title is Serena’s third Wimbledon title and her eleventh major title overall.
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Serena Williams kept telling herself she was facing just another foe in the Wimbledon final Saturday, just another woman who hits the ball quite hard, just another player trying to deny her a Grand Slam title.
She wasn’t facing just anyone, of course. She was playing her older sister Venus. And when the latest all-Williams final finished, when Serena wrapped up a 7-6 (3), 6-2 victory for a third Wimbledon championship and 11th major title overall, she jogged to the net with her arm extended for a handshake.
Venus pulled her close for a warm embrace, instead.
“I didn’t think about Venus at all today. I just saw her as an opponent,” said Serena, who also beat her sister in the 2002 and 2003 finals at the All England Club. “At one point, after the first set, I looked on the side of the court at the stats, and it was like ‘Williams,’ ‘Williams.’ I couldn’t figure out which was which.”
Check out the rest of the article at Sports Illustrated.
Despite three major titles since her US Open win, Serena will still remain number 2 behind number one ranked Dinara Safina. Speaking of rankings I was checking out the rankings for tennis players and was disturbed by the lack of American females in the tennis rankings. Serena and Venus are currently ranked second and third respectively. After that the next American female players are ranked 57th and 90th. That’s pathetic. What happened to the American female tennis players? Russia, France and Belarus have a slew of women ranked in the top 100 yet the United States only has four. American men fared better. There are eight American men ranked in the Mens top 100.
Anyway speaking of the Williams sisters a few hours after Serena’s win the sisters won the Womens doubles title against Australia’s Rennae Stubbs and Samantha Stoser 7-6 (7-4), 6-4.
The Williams sisters conquered Wimbledon again after they won a battle of power against guile to retain their doubles crown. Venus and Serena triumphed 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 against the Australian pairing of Sam Stosur and Rennae Stubbs in a late, enthralling match on Centre Court.
They had to survive a first set scare as Stosur and Stubbs raced into a 4-2 set lead. Stosur, who was beaten 6-2, 6-2 with previous partner Lisa Raymond by Venus and Serena in last year’s final, was in particularly inspired form early on, helping to break the Serena serve at 2-1.
Congrats to the ladies!!
Congrats to the Williams sisters. Yesterday Venus and Serena defeated their opponents to reach the Wimbledon Womens Final tomorrow on Independence Day.
Their matches were complete opposites. While Serena had an exciting match that lasted over two hours against Elena Dementieva defeating her 6-7 (4), 7-5, 8-6, Venus easily defeated number 1 ranked Dinara Safina 6-1, 6-0. Dinara sure didn’t play like a number 1 ranked player. As Richard Williams put it:
“Serena nearly gave me a heart attack,” Dad said. “Venus played as if she had some place to go, and she was in a major league hurry to get a great dinner.”
I had to laugh at that comment. I was fixing my lunch yesterday during the second set. I had to hurry cause the way that set was going I would have missed most of it. I kept running from the kitchen to watch (thanks to the digital switch I can’t watch my 5 inch tv in the kitchen anymore; Boo!!!).
We seem to have been here before: another Wimbledon final, another Williams family showdown. For the second year running and the fifth time in all, Venus and Serena will contest the ladies’ final on Saturday.
The sisters are as close as sisters can be and yet they appear, in many ways, to be polar opposites. Venus is tall and rangy, a physique that has helped her become the best grass court player of her generation, while Serena is shorter, more muscular and more obviously aggressive in her approach to the pursuit of Grand Slam titles. Not that Venus is a shrinking violet on the court – far from it – it is just that she tends to keep her thoughts and her emotions to herself.
The two sisters also took vastly differing routes to their Saturday appointment. Serena played the best match of the Ladies’ Championship so far – and the longest recorded for a semi-final here – by beating Elena Dementieva 6-7, 7-5, 8-6 while Venus took only 51 minutes to beat Dinara Safina 6-1, 6-0.
I forgot that ESPN2 was showing Serena and Elena early yesterday morning. Luckily NBC showed that match after Venus hurried through her match against Dinara.
It’s difficult to decide who to root for cause I like both Williams sisters. I’m kind of rooting for Serena though since Venus has already won five Wimbledon titles compared to Serena’s two. You could tell Serena was a little ticked off after losing to big sis last year. Anyway congrats to the ladies and good luck to both.