Althea Gibson: The legacy of a tennis pioneer

Published 1241 GMT (2041 HKT) September 2, 2014
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Althea Gibson was an 11-time grand slam champion and the first prominent black competitor in women's tennis. Harold Clements/Getty Images/File
Gibson won the French Open in 1956 before winning both Wimbledon and U.S. Nationals crowns in 1957 and 1958. Getty Images/File
Gibson (right) receives a kiss from compatriot Darlene Hard, who she beat to become the first black woman to win the Wimbledon title in 1957. Getty Images/File
They also teamed up to win the women's doubles title that year at the prestigious grass-court tournament in London. Reg Birkett/Keystone/Getty Images/file
Gibson's successes helped her become the world's top-ranked women's player. In this picture, she plays at the Wightman Cup staged at the All England Tennis Club in 1958. Wightman Gibson/Getty Images/File
Gibson greets Sugar Ray Robinson on his arrival in London in 1957. The American boxing legend and his wife were early benefactors in Gibson's life, helping fund her tennis career as a teenager. Ron Burton/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images/file
After retiring from tennis in late 1958, Gibson became a professional golfer, released a solo album of songs and tried her hand at acting, featuring in the film "Horse Soldiers" with John Wayne. Ron Burton/Getty Images/File
Gibson died age 76 in 2003. Here her longtime friend, former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, unveils an award in her memory at the 2004 U.S. Open. Don Emmert/Getty Images
American tennis legend Billie-Jean King, who lifted her first Wimbledon title eight years after Gibson retired, says her compatriot was a great inspiration -- a "she-ro" -- and she helped raise $50,000 to make her later life more comfortable. Gibson made no money in tennis and suffered ill health in her declining years. AFP/Getty Images/file
Gibson was not only an inspiration for female tennis players, but also for men's stars such as Arthur Ashe -- the only black male player to win the U.S. Open, Wimbledon or Australian Open titles. The U.S. Open's main stadium is named after him. Keystone/Getty Images
In 1990, Zina Garrison became the first African American woman since Gibson to reach a grand slam singles final, losing to Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon. She also made two major finals in women's doubles, and won gold with Pam Shriver at the 1988 Olympics, while claiming three grand slam titles in mixed doubles. Bob Martin/Allsport/file
The Williams sisters Venus (left) and Serena have been two of the dominant stars of women's tennis in the past 15 years. In 2002, Venus became the first black woman to be ranked No. 1 in the Open Era. Mark Kolbe/Getty Images/file
Sloane Stephens has been tipped the become "the next Serena" -- yet to win a grand slam, she has a long way to go to match the current world No. 1, but she beat her idol at the 2013 Australian Open to reach the semifinals. Al Bello/Getty Images
Teenager Taylor Townsend, who is coached by Garrison, is seen as another rising U.S. women's star. She is pictured here with mixed doubles partner Donald Young -- a former junior boys world No. 1 -- at the 2014 U.S. Open. Elsa/Getty Images