Through their accomplishments and contributions to tennis, these five former players have paved the way for the success of present day champions on the WTA Tour. Many black players have been inspired by these women, including Sloane Stephens, Serena and Venus Williams and Madison Keys.
Adams is well known for her impact both on and off the court. The two-time All-American played for Northwestern University before going on tour. Specializing in doubles, she won 20 WTA titles. She also reached the semifinals of Wimbledon and the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, French Open, and US Open. After her career, Adams became a commentator for the Tennis Channel.
In 2015, Adams was elected as President and CEO of the USTA, becoming the first former professional tennis player and African-American to earn the role in the organization's 135-year history.
Reaching a career-high ranking of No. 6 in singles and No. 9 in doubles, Rubin won seven singles titles and 10 doubles titles throughout her career. In 1996, she earned her only Grand Slam title by winning the Australian Open doubles crown. Rubin also reached the singles Australian Open semifinals and the French Open quarterfinals three times.
The Louisiana native earned wins over notable top players such as Serena Williams, Justine Henin and Amelie Mauresmo. Rubin also became the third African American woman in the Open Era to reach the Top 10, alongside Zina Garrison and Lori McNeil.
McNeil’s career spanned 19 years, during which she won 10 singles and 33 doubles titles, including the 1988 mixed doubles crown at the French Open. In 1987, she reached the Australian Open doubles final, the French Open doubles quarterfinal, the Wimbledon doubles semifinal, and the US Open singles semifinals. Her highest career ranking was No. 9 in singles and No. 4 in doubles.
A Top 5 player in both singles and doubles, Garrison was a powerhouse, winning 14 singles and 20 doubles titles during her 15 years on tour. In her first tournament as a professional player, she made a name for herself by reaching the quarterfinals of the French Open. Known for her attacking style and net game, Garrison won the 1987 Australian Open and 1988 and 1990 Wimbledon mixed doubles titles, as well as the 1989 and 1990 Fed Cup for the United States.
The woman who started it all for the black tennis community, Gibson was the first black athlete to play professional tennis. In 1956, she won the French Open, becoming the first African-American player to win a Grand Slam title. Gibson then won Wimbledon and the US Open twice in 1957 and 1958. By the end of her career, the New Jersey native had won 11 Grand Slams, including five singles, five doubles and one in mixed doubles.