History did not favor Leslie Allen when she took the court last weekend. Not since Althea Gibson captured Wimbledon and US Open titles in 1958 had a black player won even a regular weekly event on the major women's tennis tour. The pressure, therefore, was as great on the unseeded Allen as on Czechoslovakia's Hana Mandlikova, the other finalist in the Avon Championships of Detroit.
That Leslie won 6-4, 6-4 is a testament to her poise and maturity. But then, what would you expect of someone who graduated magna cum laude from Southern California and whose mother is a Broadway actress?
While others attached added significance to her presence in the final, Allen didn't dwell on it. "I wanted to treat this like just a first- round match," she said, "and if any of those people wanted to come out and watch a first- round match, that was fine."
At 5 ft. 10 in. and 145 pounds, the rangy right-hander can be an intimidating presence at the net. She's a fast learner who came up through the minors (the Futures circuit) and jumped her world computer ranking from No. 152 to 41 last year.
Other black women given a chance to make a mark in tennis soon are Renee Blount, Dianne Morrison, Kim Sands, and Zina Garrison.
Interestingly, black Frenchman Yannick Noah won a $200,000 men's event last Sunday, though no one seemed to notice. Noah led 6-1, 3-1 when Ivan Lendi, another Czech, had to default with a leg problem.