Althea Gibson, who won the US Nationals in 1957, becoming the first Black person with what became the US Open, gets her just due in a moving tribute on Arthur Ashe Stadium tonight. We got on Wimbledon for not giving Althea her due this year, but she actually won Roland Garros in 1956 to become the first Black person to win a Slam and her anniversary last year was overlooked by all. Still, better late than never.
The telecast opened with Serena and Venus Williams in giving props to Althea. A Black hero. A woman's hero. A tennis idol. Goosebumps.
Billie Jean King, who received her own tribute last year whe the USTA Tennis Center was renamed in her honor, holds a plaque honoring Althea in the opening night ceremony. Althea was officially inducted into the US Open Court of Champions. She died broke in 2003. Too bad she wasn't around to experience all of this. Better late than never.
Aretha Franklin holds her arms aloft after putting down "Respect" for the rapt audience.
Rachel Robinson, widow of Jackie Robinson who integrated major league baseball, looks on.
Janet Jackson takes it all in from the Williams family box.
Jackie Joyner Kersey, back-to-back Olympic Gold Medalist in the heptathlon, and Carol Moseley Braun, first Black woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate (Illinois), hold court as pioneering Black women in their professions. Other women honored include Dr. Mae Jemison, first Black woman to travel into space; Dr. Debi Thomas, 1988 Olympic silver medalist in figure skating; Sharon Pratt, first Black woman elected major of a major U.S. city; Yolanda Adams, Grammy winning gospel singer; Vonetta Flowers, Olympic Gold Medalist, 2002 U.S. bobsledding team; Ella Bully-Cummings, first Black female chief of police, Detroit; Sheila Crump Johnson, co-founder Black Entertaiment Television (BET), owner of 3 professional sports franchises and sole owner of PGA Tour golf courses; Traci Green, first Black female tennis head coach at Harvard; Nikki Giovanni, award winning poet and activist; Loretta Claiborne, first Special Olympics athlete to win the ESPY and the first Black woman to win the Arthur Ashe Courage Award; Susan L. Taylor of Essence, winner of Henry Johnson Fisher Award, the highest award in magazine publishing; Lynette Woodard, first female member of Harlem Globetrotters; Cynthia Cooper, two-time WNBA most valuable player; Roberta Flack, first artist ever to win back-to-back Grammy's for Record of the Year; and Zina Garrison, first Black player to win Olympic tennis Gold Medal. Phylicia Rashad, the first Black woman to win a Tony for lead actress in a drama, gave a speech about Althea near the beginning of the tribute and introduced the other pioneers.
Oracene Price, mother of multiple Slam champions Serena and Venus, is ravishing with gold hair.
Donald Young wins his first Slam match, coming from a set down to defeat Chris Guccione of Australia 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.
Venus reacts to setting a new serve record for women. 129mph. Ouch. She also won her first-round match over Hungarian qualifier Kira Nagy 6-2, 6-1.
Miami native Ahsha Rolle musta felt the love. She upset No. 17 seed and 2006 quarterfinalist Tatiana Golovin of France 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 for her first win in Flushing Meadows.
Qualifier Scoville Jenkins isn't so lucky. He falls to The Name 3-6, 2-6, 4-6 in his first round, bringing his US Open record to 1-3. Apparently, he was out of the game for a while with a wrist injury that forced him to wear a cast. He has enough talent to be a decent professional player but I still feel that before his injury he got too little help from the USTA. Perhaps his name and his cornrows aren't helping his cause. Just sayin.
Serena closes out the night, shaking off some rust, and subdues hard hitting lefty Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-3, 7-5. Serena gives the thumbs up after the match. She hit her backhand well. Great sign moving forward.