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Missouri Valley

Fine Sisters Cement Place in History

February 08, 2021

 

You probably know all about tennis great Althea Gibson, but do you know about one of her biggest competitors - and someone who called Kansas City home - Mary Etta Fine?

 

Mary Etta and her sister, Eva Belle were two of the country’s best players in the 1950's. In addition, Mary Etta was both a friend and fierce rival of Gibson. 

 

The sisters were late bloomers in terms of beginning the game - with Mary Etta picking up tennis at 16-years-old - and Eva Belle following suit at 14-years-old. Their brother Leo introduced the game to the sisters and neither looked back. 

 

The sisters played in the American Tennis Association (ATA), which helped to promote African-American tennis before being accepted at local clubs, and until the United States Lawn Tennis Association (now the USTA) desegregated in the 1950's. Mary Etta captured the ATA women’s singles title in 1958. Fine and Gibson oftentimes competed against each other for the ATA women's single title -  but despite many storied matches, Fine could never break Gibson’s streak of ten consecutive ATA women’s singles titles -  from 1947 to 1956.

 

But Mary Etta and Eva Belle were more dynamic together as a doubles team. The duo was dominant in ATA play in the late 1950's, grabbing ATA National Women’s Doubles championships in 1955, 1957 and 1958.

Mary Etta also won the ATA Mixed Doubles National Championship in 1951 with her brother. 

 

After Mary Etta and Eva Belle concluded their tennis career, both came back to the Kansas City area and spent the remainder of their lives outside of tennis in the classroom as educators. Mary Etta and Eva Belle Bracy were inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame in 2014. 

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