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 the pursuit of a pro career, Bryan Shelton took the old-fashioned route: he went to college. During a four-year stay at Georgia Tech, the Huntsville, Ala. native won the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) singles championship (1985), teamed with Richy Gilbert to win the ACC doubles title (1986), was named an All-American in 1988 and was an All-ACC selection four consecutive years. Had Shelton’s dreams of a pro career failed to materialize, his Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in industrial engineering probably would have been useful.
Shelton began his pro career in 1989, won two ATP titles (Newport, 1991-92) and reached a career-high world No. 55 ranking in 1992. He seemed on the verge of a significant breakthrough at the 1994 Wimbledon, where, as a qualifier, he upset Michael Stich, 1991 Wimbledon champion, in the first round and advanced to the fourth round, his career best result at a major event. Shelton earned $1.2 million in prize money during his eight-year pro career, held a few tennis-related positions before agreeing in 2000 to return to Georgia Tech as head coach of the Yellow Jackets’ women’s team.
Named Coach-of-the-Year three times (2002, 2005, 2007), Shelton led Georgia Tech to its first NCAA Women’s Tennis Championship in 2007, defeating UCLA in the final. Picked to coach the University of Florida in 2013, Shelton guided the Gators to the NCAA quarterfinals in 2016.