'African-American mother of tennis'

Updated: September 7, 2004, 9:45 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- For more than half her life, Zina Garrison heard the same advice from Althea Gibson: Work on your serve.

Yet not until Gibson's funeral did Garrison truly understand what her friend and mentor meant.

"Not only serving myself, but serving my community," Garrison said.

Garrison joined John McEnroe and others in an on-court tribute to Gibson at the U.S. Open on Tuesday night, honoring the woman they called the "African-American mother of tennis."

The festivities took place at Arthur Ashe Stadium before Serena Williams played Jennifer Capriati in the quarterfinals.

Gibson, who died last Sept. 28 at 76, was the first black player to compete at Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships, as the Open was known in 1950. She won the singles title at both events in 1957-58, part of the 11 Grand Slam singles and doubles titles she took overall.

Gibson also excelled at golf, and became the first black player on the LPGA Tour.

"She gave all minorities a chance to break a lot of barriers," Garrison said during the ceremony.

Gibson became the New Jersey state commissioner of athletics in 1975, ran for the state senate two years later and went on to establish the Althea Gibson Foundation to benefit urban and underprivileged youth in tennis.

"It is truly appropriate to recognize the achievements of Althea Gibson here at the Open," McEnroe said.

Garrison, now 40 and an Olympic gold medalist, first met Gibson at age 15. Garrison went on the become the first black woman to reach a Wimbledon final since Gibson.

Every year, Garrison said, she'd talk to Gibson after the Open. Gibson loved watching the event, and often would have advice for many of tennis' top players, such as the Williams sisters.

Gibson wanted Serena to perfect her forehand. And what message did she want Garrison to pass along to Serena's older sibling?

"Tell Venus she needs more work on her serve," Garrison recalled.

Time for some action
Former No. 1 Kim Clijsters hopes to return to action at the end of the month after missing most of the season with an injured left wrist.

She would like to be healthy enough to play at the Gaz de France Stars tournament, which starts Sept. 27 in her native Belgium.

"I'll try. Hopefully," Clijsters said Tuesday in the players' lounge at the U.S. Open after watching fiance Lleyton Hewitt beat Karol Beck 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals.

Clijster has had problems with her left wrist since March and has not played competitively since early May, skipping the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open.

Clijsters, who's right-handed but uses a two-fisted backhand, had surgery in June.

Playing the fame game
Jim Courier, Yannick Noah and Jana Novotna are among eight nominees for induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

The 2005 ballot, announced Tuesday in Newport, R.I., also includes Owen Davidson, Christine Truman Janes and Patricia Canning Todd in the Masters Category, and Earl "Butch" Buchholz, Jr. and Eiichi Kawatei in the Contributor Category.

Courier was a two-time champion at both the Australian Open and French Open and spent 58 weeks ranked No. 1. In 1983, Noah was the first French player in 37 years to win the French Open. Novotna won Wimbledon in 1998 after reaching the finals in 1993 and 1997.

Davidson won 10 mixed doubles championships, including the Grand Slam in 1967. Janes won the French Open in 1959 at age 18 and was ranked in the top 10 six times between 1957 and 1965. Todd won four majors, including the 1947 French singles crown.

Buchholz was a founding member of the first men's players association in 1963. Kawatei is the former tournament director of both the Japan Open and Asian Open.

Nominees must receive 75 percent affirmative votes for election. Results will be announced in January and winners will be inducted July 9.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press