In celebration of Black History Month, the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF) released a digital exhibit, Breaking the Racial Barriers, which is a comprehensive look at the history of black tennis in America. The exhibit includes brief profiles of black tennis pioneers, former pros and current top pros, including tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams and Dr. R. Walter Johnson, who in 2009 was inducted into the (ITHF) as a contributor. Throughout the Australian Open, the dougsmithpost.com will recognize selected black pioneers and current players.
In 1973, Ann Koger had good reason to be pleased and proud when she and Bonnie Logan, both Baltimore, MD. natives, became the first black women to play on the Virginia Slims pro tour. The joy that she had hoped for never jelled during her four years on the Slims tour, mainly because systemic racism dampened her spirit. “We weren’t allowed to go in all the clubs. We weren’t allowed to play on all the tennis courts, particularly the clay courts, definitely not grass courts,” Koger said. “It was a great opportunity, but a lonely opportunity because there weren’t more like me once I started moving in the national spotlight.”
Taught by her mother, Myrtle, Koger was a top junior in the predominantly black American Tennis Association (ATA) and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Mid-Atlantic Section during the 1960s. Remarkably, Logan and Koger were teammates on Morgan State University’s men’s tennis team (1969-72). Logan, the better tennis player, was No. 1; Koger, who earned varsity letters in four sports – tennis, basketball, field hockey and volleyball – the better athlete, No. 2. They joined the Slims’ tour soon after graduation.
Koger never allowed her experiences on the pro tour to lessen her love of the game. In 1981, she was named the head coach of the women’s tennis team at Haverford College (PA.). She led the Fords (nickname) to three conference singles championships and two conference doubles titles and ended her 35-year stent at Haverford in 2016. In 2010, she was inducted into the USTA Middle States Hall of Fame and the Black Tennis Hall of Fame and has been honored by various tennis and other sports organizations throughout her career.