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Definition: Ashe, Arthur Robert from The Columbia Encyclopedia

1943–93, American tennis player, b. Richmond, Va. Ashe rose from his hometown's public courts to become the first African-American male to reach prominence in tennis. He won the 1965 intercollegiate singles championship while at the Univ. of California at Los Angeles. Denied a visa by South Africa on racial grounds in 1970, Ashe forced the issue, appearing before the United Nations and urging the World Tennis Union to expel South Africa because of its apartheid policy. Noted for his grace, hard-hit topspin, and outstanding backhand, Ashe won the 1968 U.S. Open, the 1970 Australian Open, and the 1975 Wimbledon title. He retired as a player following a 1979 heart attack, but continued to serve as the U.S. Davis Cup captain. In 1992 he announced that he had acquired AIDS from a heart operation years earlier. He remained an active spokesperson on many issues, including race relations and AIDS, until his death.


Summary Article: Arthur Ashe (1943–1993)
from African American Almanac
Tennis Player

Born on July 10, 1943, in Richmond, Virginia, Arthur Robert Ashe learned the game at the Richmond Racket Club, which had been formed by local black enthusiasts. Dr. R. W. Johnson, who had also served as an adviser and benefactor to Althea Gibson, sponsored Ashe's tennis career, spending thousands of dollars and a great deal of time with him.

By 1958 Ashe reached the semi-finals in the under-fifteen division of the National Junior Championships. In 1960 and 1961 he won the Junior Indoors Singles title. Even before he finished high school, he was ranked twenty-eighth in the country.

In 1961 Ashe entered UCLA on a tennis scholarship. He was on his way to winning the U.S. Amateur Tennis Championship and the U.S. Open Tennis Championship, in addition to becoming the first black man ever named to a Davis Cup Team.

In 1975 Ashe was recognized as one of the world's great tennis players, having defeated Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon as well as taking the World Championship Tennis (WCT) singles title over Bjorn Borg. At Wimbledon he defeated Connors 61, 57, 64.

In 1979, at the age of thirty-five, Ashe suffered a heart attack. Following quadruple bypass heart surgery, he retired from playing tennis. He began writing a nationally syndicated column and contributed monthly articles to Tennis magazine. He wrote the book Advantage Ashe (1967), a tennis diary, Portrait in Motion (1975), and his autobiography Off the Court (1981). In addition, he compiled the historical work A Hard Road to Glory: A History of the African American Athlete (1993).

Ashe was named captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team in 1981. He was a former president and active member of the board of directors of the Association of Tennis Professionals, and a co-founder of the National Junior Tennis League. Late in his career he also served as a television sports commentator.

In April 1992 Ashe announced that he had contracted AIDS as the result of a tainted blood transfusion during heart-bypass surgery. He died on February 6, 1993.

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