"If one has no vanity in this life of ours, there is no sufficent reason
for living." Leo Tolstoy

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Arthur Ashe

Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr. (July 10, 1943 – February 6, 1993) was a professional tennis player, born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. During his career, he won three Grand Slam titles, putting him among the best ever from the United States. Ashe, an African American, is also remembered for his efforts to further social causes.

Born to parents Arthur Ashe Sr. and Mattie Cordell Cunningham Ashe, Arthur and his younger brother, Johnnie, suffered a tragic loss when their mother died suddenly from heart related complications during routine surgery. Arthur Ashe first attended Maggie L. Walker High School, being coached by Ronald Charity, and later coached by Robert Walter Johnson. Tired of having to travel great distances to play Caucasian youths in segregated Richmond, Ashe accepted an offer from a St. Louis tennis official to move there and attend Sumner High School. Young Ashe was recognized by Sports Illustrated for his playing. Ashe was awarded a tennis scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1963. That same year, Ashe became the first black player ever selected to the United States Davis Cup team.

In 1965, Ashe won the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) singles title and contributed to UCLA's winning the team NCAA tennis championship. While at UCLA, Ashe was initiated as a member of the Upsilon chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. Ashe was also a member of the UCLA Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant after completing camp at Fort Lewis, Washington in the summer of 1966

In 1968, Ashe won the United States Amateur Championships against Davis Cup Teammate Bob Lutz, and the inaugural US Open and aided the U.S Davis Cup team to victory. He is the only player to have won both of these amateur and open national championships in the same year. Concerned that tennis professionals were not receiving winnings commensurate with the sport's growing popularity, Ashe supported formation of the Association of Tennis Professionals. That year would prove even more momentous for Ashe when he was denied a visa by the South African government, thereby keeping him out of the South African Open. Ashe used this denial to publicize South Africa's apartheid policies. In the media, Ashe called for South Africa to be expelled from the professional tennis circuit.

In 1969, Ashe turned professional. In 1970, Ashe won his second Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open. In 1975, Ashe won Wimbledon, unexpectedly defeating Jimmy Connors in the final. He also won the season ending championship WCT Finals. Arthur played for a few more years, but after being slowed by heart surgery in 1979, he retired in 1980.

Ashe remains the only black man to ever win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, or Australian Open. He is one of only two men of black African ancestry to win a Grand Slam singles title, the other being France's metis Yannick Noah, who won the French Open in 1983. In his 1979 autobiography, Jack Kramer, the long-time tennis promoter and great player himself, ranked Ashe as one of the 21 best players of all time.

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