Statue of ‘American treasure’ Althea Gibson to be built at Flushing U.S. Open grounds

Public domain photo, World Telegram & Sun by Fred Palumbo

Another tennis legend will soon be immortalized near Arthur Ashe Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Stadium within Flushing Meadows–Corona Park.

A statue of Althea Gibson will be erected on the grounds of the U.S. Open, the United States Tennis Association announced on Tuesday. The announcement comes at the end of Black History Month, dedicated to recognizing African-Americans’ contributions to American history.

The association will begin a request for proposals (RFP) process in the search for an artist and sculptor to take on the project. There is currently no set completion date.

Gibson is a two-time U.S. National Singles Champion and 11-time Grand Slam winner. She became the first African-American to win the U.S. Nationals, the precursor to the U.S. Open, when she won the women’s singles championship in 1957, and repeated the win in 1958.

Gibson was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971.

“It’s simple. She’s the Jackie Robinson of tennis. She deserves it,” said USTA Chairman of the Board and President Katrina Adams. “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.”

Gibson joins Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King as tennis champions commemorated at the Flushing USTA campus. King, who is the namesake of the campus’s USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, called Gibson “an American treasure and one of [her] most important heroes.”

“Through tennis she opened the doors for future generations – men and women of all backgrounds – to have a chance to compete and make a living playing professional tennis,” she said. “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.”

A statue of Ashe was unveiled on the grounds in August 2000. The Gibson statue will be the second commemorating a tennis icon.

More from Around New York