The United States Tennis Association (USTA) announced that the organization will honor iconic African-American tennis champ Althea Gibson at the U.S. Open later this year.
A statue of Gibson will be erected, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, New York, to commemorate the tennis player's impact on and significance to the sport.
In a release on Tuesday, the organization disclosed that the process of selecting an artist to sculpt Gibson's statue was underway.
USTA president Katrina Adams referred to Gibson as the “Jackie Robinson of tennis.” Adams added: “By breaking the color barrier, she made it possible for every person of color after her to have a chance to achieve their goals in the sport.”
Compatriot, tennis pioneer Billie Jean King also stated that Gibson opened the doors for future generations. “Althea Gibson is an American treasure and one of my most important heroes," King explained. “Our sport owes a great deal to Althea and it is my hope that the children of today and tomorrow will learn more about her and be inspired by her.”
Gibson was the first person of color to win a tennis grand slam when she won Roland Garros in 1956. She went on to become the first African-American to win the U.S. Nationals singles title (the name of the tournament prior to it being known as the U.S. Open) in 1957 and again in 1958.
She made her way crossed the pond to claim back-to-back Wimbledon titles in 1957 and 1958.
In addition to her 5 grand slam titles, the South Carolina-born legend also etched her name to 5 doubles titles (3 Wimbledons, 1 French and 1 Australian) and one mixed doubles title (1 U.S. Open).
Gibson, who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971, died in 2003 at age 76. The Althea Gibson Tennis Complex, the largest in Wilmington, was named in her honor. It features 19 lighted tennis courts and a clubhouse that is open to the public.
Gibson was also a golfer.