In this July 5, 1958 file photo, Althea Gibson waves the winner's plate aloft after she defeated Britain's Angela Mortimer in the women's singles final at Wimbledon. Photo: AP
In this July 5, 1958 file photo, Althea Gibson waves the winner's plate aloft after she defeated Britain's Angela Mortimer in the women's singles final at Wimbledon. Photo: AP
A new statue honouring African American tennis icon Althea Gibson is unveiled by the United States Tennis Association at Flushing Meadows in New York. Photo: Arlyn Gajilan/Reuters
A new statue honouring African American tennis icon Althea Gibson is unveiled by the United States Tennis Association at Flushing Meadows in New York. Photo: Arlyn Gajilan/Reuters
In this May 13, 1988 file photo, Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson pose while holding trophies after being inducted into the Eastern Tennis Association Hall of Fame in New York. Photo: Susan Ragan/AP
In this May 13, 1988 file photo, Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson pose while holding trophies after being inducted into the Eastern Tennis Association Hall of Fame in New York. Photo: Susan Ragan/AP

NEW YORK – A statue honouring African American tennis trailblazer Althea Gibson was unveiled on the opening day of the US Open on Monday.

The granite monument sits outside Arthur Ashe Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Gibson broke several colour barriers in her career.

In 1950, at 23 years old, she was the first African American allowed to compete at the US Nationals, the precursor to the US Open.

In 1956, she became the first black player to win the French Open, and the following year the first to win Wimbledon and the US Nationals.

“She’s the first African American to break the colour barrier in our sport,” said one-time professional player and former United States Tennis Association (USTA) chairman and president, Katrina Adams.

“By doing so, she made it possible for every person of colour after to have a chance to achieve their goals in the sport.”

The statue, created by American sculptor Eric Goulder, is comprised of five granite blocks.

According to Goulder, each block represents the “boxes” society puts people in.

Gibson’s image emerges from the highest one, which balances on its corner to emphasise how she transformed the world’s view of African American athletes.

“Her shoulder is exposed to make clear that those who followed stand on her shoulder,” said Goulder.

The final box, which is aligned differently from the others, is meant to show that the world has changed, but not entirely.

Its inscription reads: “I hope that I have accomplished just one thing: that I have been a credit to tennis and my country.”

Adams said: “This is a tribute that’s too long overdue.

“The sport that she loved so much didn’t love her back as much as it could have... That changed today.”

Gibson died in 2003.

Reuters