Arthur Ashe, winning the 1975 ABN World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam
|Country (sports)||United States|
July 10, 1943|
Richmond, Virginia, U.S.
|Died||February 6, 1993
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Height||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)|
|Plays||Right-handed (one-handed backhand)|
|Prize money||US$ 1,584,909 (ATP)|
|Int. Tennis HoF||1985 (member page)|
|Career titles||33 (Grand Prix, WCT and Grand Slam)|
|Highest ranking||No. 1 (1968, Harry Hopman)
No. 2 (May 12, 1976) by ATP
|Grand Slam Singles results|
|Australian Open||W (1970)|
|French Open||QF (1970, 1971)|
|US Open||W (1968)|
|Tour Finals||F (1978)|
|WCT Finals||W (1975)|
|Career titles||18 (14 Grand Prix and WCT titles)|
|Highest ranking||No. 15 (August 30, 1977)|
|Grand Slam Doubles results|
|Australian Open||W (1977)|
|French Open||W (1971)|
|US Open||F (1968)|
|Davis Cup||W (1963, 1968, 1969, 1970)|
Ashe was the first black player selected to the United States Davis Cup team and the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open. He retired in 1980. He was ranked World No. 1 by Harry Hopman in 1968 and by Lance Tingay of The Daily Telegraph and World Tennis Magazine in 1975. In the ATP computer rankings, he peaked at No. 2 in May 1976.
In the early 1980s, Ashe is believed to have contracted HIV from a blood transfusion he received during heart bypass surgery. Ashe publicly announced his illness in April 1992 and began working to educate others about HIV and AIDS. He founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS and the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health before his death from AIDS-related pneumonia on February 6, 1993.
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Arthur Ashe was born in Richmond, Virginia, to Arthur Ashe Sr. and Mattie Cordell Cunningham Ashe on July 10, 1943. He had a brother, Johnnie, who was five years younger. In March 1950, Ashe's mother Mattie died from complications related to a toxemic pregnancy (now known as pre-eclampsia) at the age of 27. Ashe and his brother were raised by their father who worked as a handyman and salaried caretaker-Special Policeman for Richmond's recreation department.
Ashe Sr. was a caring father and strict disciplinarian who encouraged Arthur to excel in both school and in sports, but forbade him to play American football, a popular game for many black children, due to his son's slight build, something that meant Arthur's childhood nicknames were "Skinny" or "Bones". The Ashes lived in the caretaker's cottage in the grounds of 18-acre Brookfield park, Richmond's largest blacks-only public playground, which had basketball courts, four tennis courts, a pool and three baseball diamonds. Ashe started playing tennis at 7 years of age and began practicing on the courts where his natural talent was spotted by Virginia Union University student and part-time Brookfield tennis instructor, Ron Charity, who as the best black tennis player in Richmond at the time, began to teach Ashe the basic strokes and encouraged him to enter local tournaments.
Ashe attended Maggie L. Walker High School where he continued to practice tennis. Ron Charity brought him to the attention of Robert Walter Johnson, a physician, and coach of Althea Gibson, who founded and funded the Junior Development Program of the American Tennis Association (ATA). Ashe was coached and mentored by Johnson at his tennis summer camp home in Lynchburg, Virginia from 1953 when Ashe was age 10, until 1960. Johnson helped fine-tune Ashe's game and taught him the importance of racial socialization through sportsmanship, etiquette and the composure that would later become an Ashe hallmark. He was told to return every ball that landed within two inches of a line and never to argue with an umpire's decision. In 1958, Ashe became the first African-American to play in the Maryland boys' championships. It was also his first integrated tennis competition.
In 1960, precluded from playing Caucasian youths in segregated Richmond during the school year and unable to use the city's indoor courts which were closed to black players, Ashe accepted an offer from Richard Hudlin, a 62-year-old St. Louis teacher, tennis coach and friend of Dr. Johnson, to move to St. Louis and spend his senior year attending Sumner High School where he could compete more freely. Ashe lived with Hudlin and his family for the year, during which time Hudlin coached and encouraged him to develop the serve-and-volley game that Ashe's, now stronger, physique allowed. Ashe was able to practice at the National Guard Armory indoor courts and in 1961, after lobbying by Dr. Johnson, he was granted permission to compete in the previously segregated U.S. Interscholastic tournament and won it for the school.
In December 1960 and again in 1963, Ashe was featured in Sports Illustrated, appearing in their Faces in the Crowd segment. He became the first African-American to win the National Junior Indoor tennis title and was awarded a tennis scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1963. During his time at UCLA, he was coached by J.D. Morgan and practiced regularly with his sporting idol, Pancho Gonzales, who lived nearby and helped hone his game. Ashe was also a member of the ROTC which required him to join active military service after graduation in exchange for money for tuition. He was active in other things, joining the Upsilon chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity on campus. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in business administration, Ashe joined the United States Army on August 4, 1966. Ashe completed his basic training in Washington and was later commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Adjutant General Corps. He was assigned to the United States Military Academy at West Point where he worked as a data processor. During his time at West Point, Ashe headed the academy's tennis program. He was promoted to 1st lieutenant on February 23, 1968 and was discharged from the Army in 1969.
In 1963 Ashe became the first black player ever selected for the United States Davis Cup team. In 1965, ranked the number 3 player in the United States, Ashe won both the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) singles title and the doubles title (with Ian Crookenden of New Zealand), helping UCLA win the team NCAA tennis championship.
In 1966 and 1967, Ashe reached the final of the Australian Championship but lost on both occasions to Roy Emerson.
1968 was another groundbreaking year for Ashe. He won the United States Amateur Championships against Davis Cup Teammate Bob Lutz, and the first US Open of the open era, becoming the first black male to capture the title and the only player to have won both the amateur and open national championships in the same year. In order to maintain Davis Cup eligibility and have time away from army duty for important tournaments, Ashe was required to maintain his amateur status. Because of this, he could not accept the $14,000 first-prize money, which was instead given to runner-up Tom Okker, while Ashe received just $20 daily expenses for his historic triumph. His ability to compete in the championship (and avoid the Vietnam war) arose from his brother Johnnie's decision to serve an additional tour in Vietnam in Arthur's place. In December 1968, Ashe helped the U.S team become Davis Cup champions after victory in the final in Adelaide against defending champions, Australia. His only loss in the 12 Davis Cup tournament singles matches he played that year, was in the last dead rubber game after the U.S team had already clinched victory. The season closed with Ashe the winner of 10 of 22 tournaments with a 72-10 win-loss match record.
In September 1969, the U.S Davis Cup team retained the cup, beating Romania in the final challenge round, with Ashe winning both his singles matches. The same year, Ashe applied for a visa to play in the South African Open but was denied the visa by the South African government who enforced a strict apartheid policy of racial segregation. He continued to apply for visas in the following years and the country continued to deny him one. In protest, he used this example of discrimination to campaign for U.S. sanctions against South Africa and the expulsion of the nation from the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF) but, in defense of the individual South African players, refused the call from activists to forfeit matches against them.
In January 1970, Ashe won his second Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open. With the competition somewhat depleted by the absence of some world-class National Tennis League (NTL) professional players barred by their league from entering because the financial guarantees were deemed too low, Ashe defeated Dick Crealy in straight sets in the final to become the first non-Australian to win the title since 1959. In March 1970, triggered by South Africa's refusal to grant Ashe a visa to play there, the country was expelled from the Davis Cup competition for it's racial policy. In September 1970, shortly after helping the U.S Davis cup team defeat West Germany in the challenge round to win their third consecutive Davis Cup, Ashe signed a five-year contract with Lamar Hunt's World Championship Tennis.
In 1972, due to a dispute between the ILTF and the WCT, Ashe, as one of the 32 contracted WCT players, was barred from taking part in any ILTF Grand Prix tennis circuit tournaments from January to July. This ban meant Ashe was unable to play at the French Open and Wimbledon Grand Slam tournaments. In September, Ashe reached the final of the US Open for the second time. After leading his opponent, Ilie Năstase by 2 sets to 1 and with a break point to take a 4-1 lead in the fourth set, he eventually lost in five sets. The loss from such a winning position was the biggest disappointment of Ashe's professional tennis career. At the post-match award ceremony, irritated by some of Năstase's on-court antics during the game, Ashe praised Năstase as a tough opponent and 'colourful' player, then suggested, "...and when he brushes up on some of his court manners, he is going to be even better". At this tournament, concerned that men's tennis professionals were not receiving winnings commensurate with the sport's growing popularity and to protect players from promoters and associations, Ashe supported the founding of the Association of Tennis Professionals. He went on to become its elected president in 1974.
In June 1973, as a result of an ATP boycott, Ashe was one of 13 seeded players and 81 players in total who withdrew from the Wimbledon tournament to much public criticism. The catalyst for the boycott was that Yugoslavian ATP member Niki Pilić had been suspended for nine months by his tennis federation after allegedly refusing to represent them in a Davis Cup tie against New Zealand in May, something Pilić denied. The ban was upheld by the ILTF though they reduced it to just one month. The ATP contested the ban but lost a lawsuit to force Pilić's participation at Wimbledon during the ban period. As a member of the ATP board, Ashe voted to boycott the tournament, a vote that was only narrowly passed when ATP chairman, Cliff Drysdale abstained. The reason for the boycott was to support Pilić as an ATP member, but the importance was that it proved the solidarity of the fledgling ATP, and showed the tennis associations that professional players could no longer be dictated to.
In November 1973, with the South African government seeking to end their Olympic ban and re-join the Olympic movement, Ashe was finally granted a visa to enter the country for the first time to play in the South African Open. He lost in the final to Jimmy Connors, but won the doubles with partner Tom Okker. Despite boycotts against South African sport, Ashe believed that his presence could help break down stereotypes and that by competing and winning the tournament, it would stand as an example of the result of integration, and help bring about change in apartheid South Africa. He reached the singles final again in 1974, losing in straight sets to Connors for the second consecutive year. Later, in 1977, Ashe addressed a small crowd of boycott supporters at the U.S Open and admitted that he had been wrong to participate in South Africa and once again supported the boycott of South African players after he had tried to purchase tickets for some young Africans for a tennis match in South Africa, and was told to use an "Africans only" counter. In the media, Ashe called for South Africa to be expelled from the professional tennis circuit and Davis Cup competition.
On July 5, 1975 in the first all-American Wimbledon final since 1947, Ashe, seeded sixth and just a few days short of his 32nd birthday, won Wimbledon at his ninth attempt, defeating the strong favourite and defending champion, Jimmy Connors. Ashe had never beaten Connors in any of their previous encounters and Connors had not dropped a set in any of the six earlier rounds, but Ashe played an almost perfect game of tactical tennis to win in four sets. In the lead-up to the final, the two players' relationship was already strained. Connors was suing the ATP, with Ashe as its president, for alleged restraint of trade after opposition from the ATP and French officials meant he was refused entry to the 1974 French Open as a contracted member of World Team Tennis (WTT). Just two days before the start of the Wimbledon tournament, it had been announced that Connors was now suing Ashe for $5 million for comments in a letter Ashe had written to ATP members in his role as president, criticizing Connors' insistence that Davis Cup captain Dennis Ralston should be fired and Connors' "unpatriotic" boycott of the competition which had started after Ralston left him out of the team against the West Indies in Jamaica in March 1972. On final day, Ashe pointedly and symbolically wore red, white and blue wristbands throughout the match and wore his U.S.A. emblazoned Davis Cup warm-up jacket when walking out onto Centre Court and during the award ceremony while receiving the trophy and winner's cheque for GBP £10,000 (1975 equivalent USD $23,000). Soon after the final, Connors dropped the libel suit.
Ashe played for a few more years and won the Australian Open doubles with Tony Roche in January 1977, but a left foot heel injury requiring surgery a month later and subsequent long-term rehabilitation saw his world ranking drop to a lowly 257th before a remarkable comeback saw him rise back to 13th in the world again the following year at the age of 35. However, after undergoing heart surgery in December 1979, Ashe officially retired in April 1980, at age 36. His career record was 818 wins, 260 losses and 51 titles.
Ashe remains the only black man to 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 any Grand Slam singles title, the other being France's Yannick Noah, who won the French Open in 1983. He also led the United States to victory for three consecutive years (1968–70) in the Davis Cup.
After his retirement, Ashe took on many roles, including writing for Time magazine and The Washington Post, commentating for ABC Sports, founding the National Junior Tennis League, and serving as captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team from 1981 to 1985. He was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985.
In 1988, Ashe published a three-volume book titled A Hard Road to Glory: A History of the African-American Athlete, after working with a team of researchers for nearly six years. Ashe stated that the book was more important than any tennis titles.
Ashe was also an active civil rights supporter. He was a member of a delegation of 31 prominent African-Americans who visited South Africa to observe political change in the country as it approached racial integration. He was arrested on January 11, 1985, for protesting outside the Embassy of South Africa, Washington, D.C. during an anti-apartheid rally. He was arrested again on September 9, 1992, outside the White House for protesting on the recent crackdown on Haitian refugees.
On February 20, 1977, Ashe married Jeanne Moutoussamy, a photographer and graphic artist he met in October 1976 at a United Negro College Fund benefit. Andrew Young, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, performed the wedding ceremony in the United Nations chapel, New York City. During the ceremony Ashe wore a cast on his left foot having had an operation on an injured heel ten days earlier.
In December 1986, Ashe and Moutoussamy adopted a daughter. She was named Camera after her mother's profession.
In March 1989 Ashe's father died of a stroke at age 68.
In July 1979, Ashe suffered a heart attack while holding a tennis clinic in New York. In view of his high level of fitness as an athlete, his condition drew attention to the hereditary aspect of heart disease; Ashe's mother already had cardiovascular disease at the time of her death, aged 27, and his father had suffered a first heart attack, aged 55, and a second, aged 59, just a week before Ashe's own attack. Cardiac catheterization revealed one of Ashe's arteries was completely closed, another was 95 percent closed, and a third was closed 50 percent in two places. Ashe underwent a quadruple bypass operation, performed by Dr. John Hutchinson on December 13, 1979. A few months after the operation, Ashe was on the verge of making his return to professional tennis. However, during a family trip in Cairo, Egypt, he developed chest pains while running. Ashe stopped running and returned to see a physician accompanied by his close friend Douglas Stein. Stein urged Ashe to return to New York City so he could be close to his cardiologist, his surgeon and top-class medical facilities. In 1983, Ashe underwent a second round of heart surgery to correct the previous bypass surgery. After the surgery, Ashe became national campaign chairman for the American Heart Association.
In September 1988, Ashe was hospitalized after experiencing paralysis in his right arm. After undergoing exploratory brain surgery and a number of tests, doctors discovered that Ashe had toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that is commonly found in people infected with HIV. A subsequent test later revealed that Ashe was HIV positive. Ashe and his doctors believed he contracted the virus from blood transfusions he received during his second heart surgery. He and his wife decided to keep his illness private for the sake of their daughter, who was then two years old.
In 1992, a friend of Ashe who worked for USA Today heard that he was ill and called Ashe to confirm the story. Ashe decided to preempt USA Today's plans to publish the story about his illness and, on April 8, 1992, publicly announced he had contracted HIV. Ashe blamed USA Today for forcing him to go public with the news but also stated that he was relieved that he no longer had to lie about his illness. After the announcement, hundreds of readers called or wrote letters to USA Today criticizing their choice to run the story about Ashe's illness which subsequently forced Ashe to publicize his illness.
After Ashe went public with his illness, he founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS, working to raise awareness about the virus and advocated teaching sex education and safe sex. He also fielded questions about his own diagnosis and attempted to clear up the misconception that only homosexuals or IV drug users were at risk for contracting AIDS. In September 1992, Ashe suffered a mild heart attack. In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on World AIDS Day, December 1, 1992, he addressed the growing need for AIDS awareness and increased research funding saying "We want to be able to look back and say to all concerned that we did what we had to do, when we had to do it, and with all the resources required."
Two months before his death, he founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health to help address issues of inadequate health care delivery and was named Sports Illustrated magazine's Sportsman of the Year. He also spent much of the last years of his life writing his memoir Days of Grace, finishing the manuscript less than a week before his death.
On February 6, 1993, Ashe died from AIDS-related pneumonia at New York Hospital. His funeral was held at the Arthur Ashe Athletic Center in Richmond, Virginia, on February 10. Then-governor Douglas Wilder, who was a friend of Ashe, allowed his body to lie in state at the Governor's Mansion in Richmond. More than 5,000 people lined up to walk past the casket. Andrew Young, who had performed the service for Ashe's wedding in 1977, officiated at his funeral. Over 6,000 mourners attended. Ashe requested that he be buried alongside his mother, Mattie, who died in 1950, in Woodland Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.
|Tournament||1959||1960||1961||1962||1963||1964||1965||1966||1967||1968||1969||1970||1971||1972||1973||1974||1975||1976||19771||1978||1979||Career SR||Career Win-Loss|
|Australian Open||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||F||F||A||A||W||F||A||A||A||A||A||QF||A||SF||A||1 / 6||26–5|
|French Open||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||4R||QF||QF||A||4R||4R||A||4R||A||4R||3R||0 / 8||25–8|
|Wimbledon||A||A||A||A||3R||4R||4R||A||A||SF||SF||4R||3R||A||A||3R||W||4R||A||1R||1R||1 / 12||35–11|
|US Open||1R||2R||2R||2R||3R||4R||SF||3R||A||W||SF||QF||SF||F||3R||QF||4R||2R||A||4R||A||1 / 18||53–17|
|SR||0 / 1||0 / 1||0 / 1||0 / 1||0 / 2||0 / 2||0 / 2||0 / 2||0 / 1||1 / 2||0 / 3||1 / 4||0 / 4||0 / 1||0 / 2||0 / 3||1 / 2||0 / 3||0 / 1||0 / 4||0 / 2||3 / 44||N/A|
1The Australian Open was held twice in 1977, in January and December.
A = did not participate in the tournament
SR = the ratio of the number of Grand Slam singles tournaments won to the number of those tournaments played
|Outcome||Year||Championship||Surface||Opponent in the final||Score in the final|
|Runner-up||1966||Australian Championships||Grass||Roy Emerson||4–6, 8–6, 2–6, 3–6|
|Runner-up||1967||Australian Championships||Grass||Roy Emerson||4–6, 1–6, 4–6|
|Winner||1968||US Open||Grass||Tom Okker||14–12, 5–7, 6–3, 3–6, 6–3|
|Winner||1970||Australian Open||Grass||Dick Crealy||6–4, 9–7, 6–2|
|Runner-up||1971||Australian Open||Grass||Ken Rosewall||1–6, 5–7, 3–6|
|Runner-up||1972||US Open||Grass||Ilie Năstase||6–3, 3–6, 7–6(5–1), 4–6, 3–6|
|Winner||1975||Wimbledon||Grass||Jimmy Connors||6–1, 6–1, 5–7, 6–4|
|Outcome||Year||Championship||Surface||Partner||Opponents in the final||Score in the final|
|Runner-Up||1968||US Open||Grass||Andrés Gimeno|| Bob Lutz
|11–9, 6–1, 7–5|
|Runner-Up||1970||French Open||Clay||Charlie Pasarell|| Ilie Năstase
|6–2, 6–4, 6–3|
|Winner||1971||French Open||Clay||Marty Riessen|| Tom Gorman
|6–8, 4–6, 6–3, 6–4, 11–9|
|Runner-Up||1971||Wimbledon||Grass||Dennis Ralston|| Roy Emerson
|4–6, 9–7, 6–8, 6–4, 6–4|
|Winner||1977 (Jan)||Australian Open||Grass||Tony Roche|| Charlie Pasarell
Erik Van Dillen
|1.||August 29, 1968||US Open, New York City||Grass||Tom Okker||14–12, 5–7, 6–3, 3–6, 6–3|
|2.||January 19, 1970||Australian Open, Melbourne||Grass||Dick Crealy||6–4, 9–7, 6–2|
|3.||August 1, 1970||U.S. Tennis Championships, San Jose||Hard||Robert Lutz||4–6, 6–3, 8–10, 6–0, 6–4|
|4.||September 28, 1970||Berkeley, California||Hard||Cliff Richey||6–4, 6–2, 6–4|
|5.||November 8, 1970||Paris, France||Carpet (i)||Marty Riessen||7–6, 6–4, 6–3|
|6.||April 18, 1971||Charlotte, USA||Hard||Stan Smith||6–3, 6–3|
|7.||November 1, 1971||Stockholm, Sweden||Hard (i)||Jan Kodeš||6–1, 3–6, 6–2, 1–6, 6–4|
|8.||November 8, 1971||Paris, France||Clay (i)||Marty Riessen||7–6, 6–4, 6–3|
|9.||July 29, 1972||Louisville WCT||Clay||Mark Cox||6–4, 6–4|
|10.||September 11, 1972||Montreal WCT||Hard||Roy Emerson||7–5, 4–6, 6–2, 6–3|
|11.||November 18, 1972||Rotterdam WCT||Carpet (i)||Tom Okker||3–6, 6–2, 6–1|
|12.||November 26, 1972||Rome WCT||Carpet (i)||Bob Lutz||6–2, 3–6, 6–3, 3–6, 7–6|
|13.||February 26, 1973||Chicago WCT||Carpet (i)||Roger Taylor||3–6, 7–6(11–9), 7–6(7–2)|
|14.||July 23, 1973||Washington||Clay||Tom Okker||6–4, 6–2|
|15.||February 11, 1974||Bologna WCT||Carpet (i)||Mark Cox||6–4, 7–5|
|16.||March 3, 1974||Barcelona WCT||Carpet (i)||Björn Borg||6–4, 3–6, 6–3|
|17.||November 4, 1974||Stockholm||Hard (i)||Tom Okker||6–2, 6–2|
|18.||February 17, 1975||Barcelona WCT||Carpet (i)||Björn Borg||7–6, 6–3|
|19.||February 24, 1975||Rotterdam WTT||Carpet (i)||Tom Okker||3–6, 6–2, 6–4|
|20.||March 10, 1975||Munich WCT||Carpet (i)||Björn Borg||6–4, 7–6|
|21.||April 21, 1975||Stockholm WCT||Carpet (i)||Tom Okker||6–4, 6-2|
|22.||May 7, 1975||Dallas WCT Finals||Carpet (i)||Björn Borg||3–6, 6–4, 6–4, 6–0|
|23.||June 23, 1975||Wimbledon||Grass||Jimmy Connors||6–1, 6–1, 5–7, 6–4|
|24.||September 15, 1975||Pacific Southwest, Los Angeles||Hard||Roscoe Tanner||3–6, 7–5, 6–3|
|25.||September 22, 1975||San Francisco||Carpet (i)||Guillermo Vilas||6–0, 7–6(7–4)|
|26.||January 7, 1976||Columbus WCT||Carpet (i)||Andrew Pattison||3–6, 6–3, 7–6(7–4)|
|27.||January 12, 1976||Indianapolis WCT||Carpet (i)||Vitas Gerulaitis||6–2, 6–7, 6–4|
|28.||February 4, 1976||Richmond WCT||Carpet (i)||Brian Gottfried||6–2, 6–4|
|29.||February 17, 1976||Rome WCT||Clay||Bob Lutz||6–2, 0–6, 6–3|
|30.||February 23, 1976||Rotterdam WTT||Carpet (i)||Bob Lutz||6–3, 6–3|
|31.||April 17, 1978||San Jose||Carpet (i)||Bernard Mitton||6–7, 6–1, 6–2|
|32.||August 7, 1978||Columbus||Clay||Bob Lutz||6–3, 6–4|
|33.||September 18, 1978||Los Angeles||Carpet (i)||Brian Gottfried||6–2, 6–4|
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|Awards and achievements|
|Player of the Year
|BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year