Angela Buxton: “Successes & Slights” - UBITENNIS
Connect with us


Angela Buxton: “Successes & Slights”

Angela Buxton was a special tennis player whose real substance exceeded her performance on the court. Not only did she team with Althea Gibson to win Roland Garros and Wimbledon, she did her utmost to make right social injustices. She was an incredible individual. Mark Winters discusses the career of his dear friend who passed away on August 14th.



They were the game’s most unique pairing. One was from America’s south, the other from northwest England. They were outcasts who had faced racism and anti-Semitism. As an African-American and an ethnic Jew – Althea Gibson and Angela Buxton had often seen doors closed to them. They were definitely an “Odd Couple”, who could count themselves among the best players in the world. They actually may have been the best doubles team in the women’s game in the mid-1950s.

Gibson passed away on September 23, 2003 at the age of 76. Buxton joined her legendary partner on August 14th, just two days before her 86th birthday. She died at her home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Her departure left a huge a chasm in the game’s collective social consciousness .

Buxton was born in Liverpool, England in 1934. It was thirty years before the four boys with those shaggy hairdos and the even more distinctive music made their debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. That appearance made the city a hotbed of the emerging music scene. Harry Buxton (formerly Bakstansky), her father, made a fortune as a cinema owner. His wealth enabled Violet, his wife, along with Angela and her brother, to flee Liverpool, the most heavily bombed city in Great Britain during the World War II Blitz. They found safety in South Africa. The family, sans Harry who remained in England, spent seven years living in cities such as Cape Town and Johannesburg. A bright and eternally-feisty individual, Buxton delighted in looking back on those days, explaining that she had attended a convent school, with other Jews, and was taught by nuns. During her stay in South Africa, she was able to begin developing her tennis skills.

Her parents divorced when she was 13, but her penchant for the game became even more evident while she was attending a boarding school in North Wales. Fortunately, Harry’s wealth enabled her to spend time with the best tennis coaches. As a result, she became a national star in the 14, 15 and 18 age categories. At 17, anxious to improve, she and Violet moved to Hampstead, in north London. She began taking lessons at the Cumberland Lawn Tennis Club, one of the elite places to play in the country. Eventually, she attempted to become a member and was told, “You’re Jewish. We don’t take Jews…”

Naturally, the reaction was disturbing, but not in the least surprising. Jews were outcasts. For this reason, they had to “go it alone”. In the 1880s, Samuel Montagu, a Jewish banker in Liverpool, was an avid player. His appreciation inspired his family to play tennis on Saturdays rather than traditional weekend escape – croquet. Because of Great Britain’s rigid social structure, the Jewish Tennis Club was founded in Liverpool in 1922. Shortly thereafter, clubs were formed in Newcastle and Tottenham. Chandos in Golders Green was also founded in 1922. The Drive in Edgware began in 1925. Both clubs had significant Jewish membership and were established in north-west London.

I first met Buxton in the early 1990s while covering The Championships. Back then, she was living a portion of the year in Florida and also spent time near London. We became friendly because of our many tennis commonalities. Being a Southern Californian, I started playing on the courts at public parks and eventually had the ability to spend time hitting, (if I had cared to), at the Los Angeles Tennis Club. It was a spectacular facility, literally the Vatican of the sport, in the Southland. More important, it was where Perry T. Jones, the secretary of the Southern California Tennis Association, (in essence, the “Supreme Ruler”), had his office.

Angela Buxton was a skillful volleyer. Photo Thelner Hoover

In 1952, Buxton and her mother came to Los Angeles so she could train with elite players. They rented an apartment that overlooked the Los Angeles Tennis Club courts. But, after her club membership had been accepted and she began regularly playing there, Jones told her she could no longer use the courts, and her membership was simultaneously revoked. If that wasn’t enough, the Buxton’s lease was terminated. (However, their money was returned.) Though Jones didn’t tell her directly, Buxton later discovered the rejection was due to the fact she was Jewish.

Angela and Violet, had made lifestyle adjustments in South Africa during World War II, and now they had to adapt again. They found another place to live and Buxton learned that there were hundreds of tennis courts open to the public throughout Southern California. The good players knew where top level competition could be found. (It was almost as if “Tennis Whispers” passed the word along.)

Buxton discovered that La Cienega Park, in Beverly Hills was the best place to find “a great game.” She took advantage of the situation and even got a job working at the legendary Arzy’s Tennis Shop, a box-like structure, that was a half a block from park.

(In the “Oral History of Justice Richard Mosk”, November 2011, Mosk, a very capable junior, regularly played at La Cienega and went on to become an intercollegiate competitor at Stanford University, revealed, “Tennis in Southern California was ruled by Perry T. Jones, the “head” of tennis there. He was nice to me; he always said, ‘How’s your father?’ I remember he did not care much for Pancho Gonzales. He was reputed not to be very open-minded. I was told he wrote a letter on behalf of Ron Schoenberg and Tom Freiberg, ranked players, who were going up north to play in tournaments, so they could get housing; he wrote ‘They’re nice boys, even though they are Jewish.’ He was at the L.A. Tennis Club, which did not allow any Jews or other minorities to become members.”)

Being true to herself, Buxton kept her chin up and used her “public parks” tennis experience to become a better competitor. She reached the fourth round of The 1953 Championships. That fall, she made an international impression at the Maccabiah Games in Ramat Gan, Israel, defeating Anita Kanter, a Southern Californian who was No. 8 in the world rankings, in the final.

In 1954, after training in the off-season in London and again in Los Angeles, Buxton continued to score eye-opening results. She was a Roland Garros quarterfinalist and later matched the fourth round appearance she made the year before at Wimbledon. The success was a preview of what was to come in 1955. At Roland Garros, she played her way to the third round. In London, she was a quarterfinalist and in her only career appearance, she reached the third round at the US National Championships at Forest Hills, New York.

In our chats, over the years, Buxton made it clear that she and Gibson were a different “one of a kind” partnership. They met while doing a “goodwill tour” in India in December 1955. Gibson, along with Karol Fageros, was spreading “love of the game” for the US State Department. Buxton was doing the same for Great Britain.

CM (Clarence Medlycott) “Jimmy” Jones was a formidable player having won the Queen’s doubles, with American, Wilmer Allison, in 1935. A year later, he reached the Wimbledon fourth round where Allison defeated him. After Jones completed his playing career, he began coaching and writing about the game. Buxton was his foremost pupil. He approached her about teaming up with Gibson and she asked him if he could find out if Althea was interested in forming a partnership.

Color on one hand and ethnicity on the other made Gibson and Buxton loners on the circuit. It wasn’t in the least surprising that after consistently battling for their rights in life, they were formidable competitors on the court. Initially, their partnership was not a marriage made in heaven. Gibson could be expressive. She, as the saying goes today, had “attitude”. She had a penetrating glare that would, from time to time, appear when an easy volley went wide of the doubles alley.

Jones understood the game and picked up on the “bad vibes” she could transmit. More importantly, he realized that “her ‘tude” effected Buxton’s play, so he spoke up. He told them what he had observed and how successful they could become if, and this is a 1960’s phrase, “there is love all around.”

In 1956, they were the “story” both on the court and off it. They won Roland Garros, 6-8, 8-6, 6-1 over the American tandem, Darlene Hard and Dorothy Head Knode. At Wimbledon, they sidelined Fay Muller and Daphne Seeney, an Australian duo, 6-1, 8-6.

Angela Buxton had a solid backhand. Photo Thelner Hoover

Impressive stuff, but there is more to the extraordinary tale. Buxton became the first British woman to reach The Championships singles final since Kay Stammers in 1939. Shirley Fry of the United States was 6-3, 6-1 better in the title round. Nonetheless, Buxton made a monumental impact. She became the first British Jewish woman to win a title and reach a final at the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) in the tournament’s history. With Gibson, she set a much more significant standard – an African-American and an ethnic Jew won at Wimbledon.

Buxton could be brutally witty and never shied away from being direct. I remember talking with her about the triumphs. She got a twinkle in her eye and explained that after the doubles victory a British newspaper’s headline read “Minorities Win” but it was in very small print. At first I thought she was joking…then sadly I realized she wasn’t.

But, for Buxton and Gibson the exclusion didn’t end there. Ordinarily champions are automatically invited to become members of the exclusive AELTC. Not surprisingly, racism and anti-Semitism formed another team in London. Time and again, Buxton applied and her membership got a cold shoulder. She brought out, wearily shaking her head, that at the end of the 1980’s she had been told that “she was the one who had refused membership” and at that point was “sent to the back of the queue”. (Her supposed refusal was untrue.)

It is important to note that the first Jewish member was admitted to the “Church Road Club” in 1952, four years before Buxton’s momentous performance. Thirty-years later John McEnroe, who is snarky and profane, became a member. Yet, Buxton and Gibson are not listed among the elite. The former champions have never been allowed to take advantage of the position they earned as tournament winners.

It was hardly shocking that a spokesperson from the All England Lawn Tennis Club, when asked about the slight, righteously explained that membership at the club is a private matter and “we strongly refute any suggestion that race or religion plays a factor.”

Knowing a wide group of people who are “Members” and having lunched many times in the hallowed sanctuary, I am truly disappointed that the All England Lawn Tennis Club never saw fit to sidestep prejudice and honor Buxton, one of their country’s own, and Gibson, whose contribution to the game will never fully be recognized. Still, the AELTC seems to have followed a stringent policy in regard to these two.

In the early 2000s, Buxton said, “The mere fact that I’m not a member is a full sentence that speaks for itself.” (What was even stranger – Buxton represented Great Britain in Wightman Cup play from 1954 through 1956…and she hadn’t changed a bit, she was still Jewish.)

Sadly, 1956 marked the end of Buxton’s career on the big stage. She had been having problems with her right hand and wrist. In a way, it was appropriate that the 1957 Maccabiah Games was the last tournament she played. She won the singles title and, at the end of the year, retired at the age of twenty-two.

Though she left the court, she was still involved in the game. In 1958, she wrote “Tackle Lawn Tennis This Way”. In 1975, she authored “Starting Tennis”. Five years later (1980) she and her former coach Jimmy Jones produced “Winning Tennis Doubles Tactics”. She was one of the six founders of the Israel Tennis Center in 1976. (There are now 14 facilities across that country.)

The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame formerly began in 1981 and Buxton was one of the inaugural inductees. In 2014, she became a member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. A year later, (2015), the Black Tennis Hall of Fame honored Buxton for both teaming with and helping Gibson in the later years of her life.

Gibson suffered a stroke in 1992 and from that point on had issues with her health and finances. She contacted Buxton in 1995 and explained her dire situation. Still having status in the game, Buxton reached out to Gene Scott, a former United States Top 10 player who owned Tennis Week Magazine. Scott, who had also been a member of the USTA Board of Directors, made sure his magazine brought out that Gibson was having serious problems. The response was unprecedented. The tennis community stepped up offering assistance and made financial donations.

Buxton never sought credit. She, in effect, followed her soul and the belief that “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” Simply put, she was a “chaver lid’agah”, a Jewish saying about a friend who is there in good times and in bad, and sincerely cares about a person and her life.

Angela Buxton, far right, at Easter Bowl founder Seena Hamilton’s annual US Open party in 2007. Photo Cheryl Jones

What she did was pure and simple – it was the real Angela Buxton. She was a rare tennis talent and more than that – a rare individual. Her love of the sport, along with her faith, made her a perfect partner for Althea Gibson. The African-American knocked down racial barriers while Buxton put fissures in what has often been a long established practice of anti-Semitism. They were both extraordinary in so many overlooked ways.

Rest In Peace – Angela Buxton. You made a difference where and when it counted.

Continue Reading
Click to comment


Rafael Nadal Announces Wimbledon Withdrawal, Will Play Bastad Ahead Of Olympics

Rafael Nadal has announced his schedule ahead of the Olympic Games.



(@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal has announced that he will be playing the ATP 250 event in Bastad ahead of the Olympic Games as he will once again withdraws from Wimbledon.

The Spaniard is set for a massive summer as he competes in singles and doubles at the Olympic Games.

It was announced yesterday that he and Carlos Alcaraz will team up in the doubles event in Paris as Nadal searches for his third gold medal.

However Nadal’s big summer before the Olympics has been slightly altered in order to have the best preparations possible for the big event.

This is as Nadal has announced his withdrawal from Wimbledon with the Spaniard not playing the event since withdrawing from his 2022 semi-final against Nick Kyrgios.

In more surprising news though Nadal announced on social media that he will be playing the ATP 250 event in Bastad, Sweden ahead of the Olympic Games, “During my post match press conference at Roland Garros I was asked about my summer calendar and since then I have been practising on clay. It was announced yesterday that I will play at the summer Olympics in Paris, my last Olympics,” Nadal explained on X.

“With this goal, we believe that the best for my body is not to change surface and keep playing on clay until then. It’s for this reason that I will miss playing at The Championships this year at Wimbledon.

“I am saddened not to be able to live this year the great atmosphere of that amazing event that will always be in my heart, and be with all the British fans that always gave me great support. I will miss you all.

“In order to prepare for the Olympic Games, I will play the tournament in Bastad, Sweden, a tournament that I played earlier in my career and where I had a great time both on and off the court. Looking forward to seeing you all there. Thank you.”

Nadal last competed at Bastad in 2005, where he won the title defeating Tomas Berdych in the final.

The tournament will take place the week after Wimbledon on the 15th of July with world number one Jannik Sinner scheduled to participate there as well.

Continue Reading


Rafael Nadal And Carlos Alcaraz To Team Up In Olympic Gold Bid

Rafael Nadal has been confirmed to compete at his third Olympic Games in Paris.



(@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz will team up and represent Spain in the upcoming Olympic Games.

The news was announced by Davis Cup captain David Ferrer at a press conference as he stated that Nadal and Alcaraz would team up at the Olympic Games.

Nadal has won Gold at the last two Olympic Games he has participated in and will fancy his chances of further success at Roland Garros, where he won 14 Grand Slam titles.

Meanwhile Alcaraz recently won the Roland Garros title in Paris to claim his third Grand Slam title.

Speaking about the Olympics Alcaraz stated that he is prioritising winning gold in Paris, “The Olympic Games are every four years and it’s a special tournament where you’re not only playing for yourself, but for a country, representing every Spaniard,” Alcaraz was quoted by The Score as saying.

“I think this year I’d choose Olympic gold.”

In addition to Nadal Pablo Carreno Busta, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Marcel Granollers complete the team.

On the women’s team Sara Sorribes Tormo and Cristina Bucsa will represent Spain while Paula Badosa has decided to use her last two protected rankings at Wimbledon and US Open, so will not be competing in Paris.

The tennis event at the Olympic Games begins on the 27th of July and concludes on the 4th of August.

Continue Reading


Matteo Berrettini: “It’s all about the matches now, I’m pushing myself to the limit”

Former Wimbledon finalist relishing the journey back to the top.



(@boss_open - Twitter)

After coming through in three tight sets 7-6, 5-7, 7-5 against eighth seed Roman Safiullin, Matteo Berrettini spoke at length with a glint in his eye about the hard work he has put in on his journey back to the top, and the potential rewards that lie ahead.

“It was good that I played so long today. It was good preparation,” he said. “Whenever I go out on court, it’s the most important match for me. Of course, not all are weighted equally. Wimbledon is Wimbledon. But this tournament here is particularly important for me. I’m happy that I had a good match.”

Safiullin is currently ranked 43 and clearly knows his way around the court, having been ranked as high as two in the world on the junior circuit. But Berrettini was grateful for the extra time on court as he experienced match play after a long time out.

“I was expecting a tough match,” said Berrettini. “He served well, I haven’t played much in the last few months. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I’m proud of the way I fought my way through. It certainly wasn’t my best level. But that’s important: winning when you’re not playing at your best level. I think I found my rhythm better during the match. You need matches for that. Training is not like a match.”

The Italian, who was the first from his country to reach a Grand Slam final at Wimbledon in 2021 since Adriano Panatta at the 1976 French Open, was not worried about his standard of play, but rather the number of matches he has – or rather has not played this season.

“When I’ve played this year, I’ve played well. It’s not so much about my level. My strokes are there, I feel good on court. It’s just about playing matches. The crowd, the atmosphere, the big points, you only get them in a real match. The more I play, the more confident I become, fatigue is secondary. It’s been so long since I had to fend off a break point. The more I play now, the better it gets.”

While most players talk about the pain of winning tough matches or tournaments, the twenty-eight-year-old instead chose to talk about the agony of not playing while injured: “It was tough not being able to go to the gym or play balls. I’m stronger now. I’m feeling good at the moment, I’ve worked hard to start the grass court season as well as possible. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t fit. It’s all about the matches. I’m pushing myself to the limit after all the things that have happened to me.”

Next up, Berrettini faces Canada’s Denis Shapavalov who has beaten him twice in their two meetings. But he feels very much at home on the centre court here in Stuttgart, and has a special bond with the crowd: “There’s been a very special vibe for me here since 2019. It was my first real grass court season back then. I played Nick Kyrgios in the first round, which was tough. But I got great support from the very first match. Not only from the Italian community, but also from the Germans. Every tournament that you win twice is something special.”

Berrettini is one of the few players who likes the faster surface, and with a 37-8 record on grass, he will be quietly relishing his prospects, not only to add a third title here, but also going deep atthe third Grand Slam of the year at Wimbledon in just over two weeks’ time.

Continue Reading