Legends of the game # 1 – Arthur Ashe

 A long-time protester of apartheid in South Africa, he was, after several refusals, granted a visa to visit that country in 1973, and became the first black person to win a title there, the doubles (with Tom Okker) in the South African Open, over Lew Hoad and Rob Maud, after losing the singles final to Jimmy Connors. 

In 1975, days before his 32nd birthday, seeded sixth at Wimbledon, he defeated defending champ Jimmy Connors, in one of the momentous upsets of the modern era, 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4. Changing pace and spin cleverly, startling Connors with a sliced serve wide to the two-fisted backhand, Ashe out-foxed the man a decade his junior. This was the centerpiece of Ashe’s preeminent year, when he won nine of 29 tournaments on a 108-23 match record and wound up No.1 in the U.S., No.4 in the world – he reached a career high of No. 2 in 1976.

He unfortunately was grounded pre-maturely, and permanently, by a heart attack in July 1979. In 1992, he revealed that he’d contracted HIV through a 1988 blood transfusion during a heart operation.

Ashe lent himself, his name and his money to various enlightened causes. He was arrested not long before his death in a protest against what he regarded as cruel U.S. policies toward Haitian refugees. His principal cause was fostering and furthering education for needy kids, and he was the guiding light in the Safe Passage Foundation for that purpose. 

Ashe did much to call attention to AIDS sufferers worldwide. He founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS to raise money to prevent, treat, and cure AIDS, with an end goal of eradicating the disease. 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.  His wife continues on with civil rights activism, most recently contributing a video to New Yorkers for marriage equality.

He died of AIDS related pneumonia on February 6, 1993.

In 1997 the USTA announced that the new centre stadium at the USTA National Tennis Centre would be named Arthur Ashe Stadium, commemorating the life of the first U.S. Open men’s champion in the place where all future U.S. Open champions will be determined. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton.

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. You’ve got to get to the stage in life where going for it is more important than winning or losing. Arthur Ashe

Career Highlights

Australian Open Singles Champion 1970 and finalist 1966, 1967 and 1971;

 US Open Singles Champion 1968 and finalist 1972; 

Wimbledon Singles Champion 1975;

French Open Doubles Champion 1971 and finalist 1970;

Wimbledon Doubles Finalist 1971 and Australian Open Doubles Champion 1977 with Tony Roche.

Davis Cup (As player) – 1963, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1975, 1977, 1978;

Record: 27-5 in singles, 1-1 in doubles;

(As captain) – 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985; record: 13-3, 2 Cups.

Singles record in the majors – Australian (25-5), French (25-8), Wimbledon (35-11), US (53-17)

Full biography available at


and plenty of clips on YouTube

Steven Thorne