TRIBUTES have poured in for British tennis legend and Wimbledon champion Angela Buxton after her death aged 85.
The Liverpool-born star, who passed away on Saturday a day before her birthday, was a trailblazer within the sport during her short but impactful career in the 1950s and beyond her early retirement.
Buxton enjoyed a sensational 1956 season, reaching the Wimbledon ladies’ singles final where she lost to Shirley Fry and winning the doubles alongside Althea Gibson.
The pair had secured the French Open doubles crown just six weeks earlier, with Gibson becoming the first African American to win a Grand Slam.
Buxton, though, was forced to retire the following year – aged just 22 – after developing a wrist injury, although did play left-handed in some low-level tournaments before hanging up her racket.
But it was off the court as well as on it that Buxton had such a major impact as a pioneer to fight against the prejudice and injustice she and Gibson were regularly victims of.
Born to Jewish Russian parents who had migrated to England, Buxton suffered anti-Semitism throughout her career and was frequently denied access or privileges because of her religious beliefs.
She said of the coverage of her Wimbledon win, beating Australian duo Fay Muller and Daphne Seeney 6-1 8-6 in the final: “The next day one newspaper reported it under the headline ‘Minorities win’ – it was in very small type, lest anyone should see it.”
Despite winning the Wimbledon doubles title, her persistent requests to become a member at the All England Club were always denied to her immense frustration.
Following her retirement, Buxton married Donald Silk – having three children together before separating – but remained in tennis by becoming a writer and a coach, setting up her own training centre alongside companion Jimmy Jones.
Saddened to hear of the passing of British tennis player Angela Buxton, friend and doubles partner of Althea Gibson. It was wonderful to spend time with her and hear her words about Althea at the unveiling of her statue @usopen last year.
Rest In Peace to a true champion. pic.twitter.com/y7YRoDBwie
And she received plenty of praise for the way she continued to look after Gibson into her difficult older age as the American battled mental and physical health struggles, helping to raise more than $1million to help cover medical and living costs until her death in 2003.
American icon Billie Jean King tweeted: “Saddened to hear of the passing of British tennis player Angela Buxton, friend and doubles partner of Althea Gibson.
“It was wonderful to spend time with her and hear her words about Althea at the unveiling of her statue @usopen last year. Rest In Peace to a true champion.”
Nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova said: “RIP Angela Buxton, a champion on the court and a champion of human rights off the court.”
Former professional player Katrina Adams added: “My condolences to the family and friends of Angela Buxton after her passing. Angela was a British tennis player who championed the friendship and support of Althea Gibson when no one else would, in a racist era in our sport in the ’50s. #RIP”
RIP Angela Buxton , a champion on the court and a champion of human rights off the court… https://t.co/SWv6LAFxH5