The Riverside Clay Tennis Association recently announced the passing of Bob Ryland, one of its active members and the first professional Black tennis player in the country. He passed shortly after his 100th birthday.
He later received a scholarship to Xavier College where he began his college tennis career. He served in the U.S. Army from 1941 to 1945, after which he received another scholarship to Wayne State University. Here, Ryland would become one of the first Black players to compete in the NCAA championships.
In 1957, Ryland moved to New York to teach tennis, and soon after, he would become the first Black tennis player to compete professionally.
Ryland moved to DC in the early 1960s, then returned to New York City, where he began teaching at the Mid-Town Tennis Club.
Throughout his career, Ryland instructed many professionals, including Venus and Serena Williams and Arthur Ashe. He also had celebrity clientele including Barbara Streisand, Dustin Hoffman, Tony Bennett and more.
According to Patch, Ryland continued teaching kids tennis in Riverside and Central Parks, and around the city, until the end, and lived on the Upper West Side for many years until the time of his death.