Who's Who

Arthur Ashe was a former World No. 1 tennis player, who single-handedly changed the outlook of fans all over the world. He was the first black man to win a Grand Slam, and achieved several notable milestones during his illustrious 12-year professional career. Till date, he remains the only black man to win the Wimbledon singles title.

Apart from being a tennis champion, Ashe was also a civil rights activist, and spoke openly against racism. Having fought an uphill battle all his life, Ashe was one of the toughest characters in the world of sports.

Early Days

He was born in Richmond, Virginia on July 10, 1943. He lost his mother when he was very young, and was raised by his father.

Ashe was fond of tennis since a very young age, and his acute interest in the sport made him move to St. Louis, Missouri, where he attended summer school. His popularity kept rising as several coaches around America became aware of his unmatched skills.

Soon he was offered a tennis scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he won a singles and a team national championship. During this time, he was also picked for the US Davis Cup team, becoming the first black player to earn this distinction. After college, Ashe also served in the US army as a first lieutenant for two years.

Career and Major Achievements

At the age of 25, Ashe won the innaugural US Open and was also part of the Davis Cup-winning American team. He finally turned pro in 1969, and pretty soon became the biggest star on the tennis circuit. He soon became the world's top-ranked player and even won the 1970 Australian Open.

Over the next five years a major title would elude Ashe, but he made his presence felt through his activism. He openly criticized South Africa's apartheid regime, for which he was reprimanded on several occasions. He also supported the silent protests of black athletes during the 1968 Olympics.

Finally, in 1975 Ashe did his talent justice by overpowering Jimmy Connors and winning the Wimbledon singles title. But thereafter, he slowed down as his health got the better of him. He finally retired in 1980 after a heart surgery following his 1979 heart attack.

Personal Probe

Ashe was married to Jeanne Moutoussamy and he adopted a girl with her in 1986. After his retirement, he was constantly prone to chest pains and had to undergo another bypass surgery. After falling ill again in 1988, Ashe found out that he had contracted HIV during blood transfussion while undergoing his the second heart surgery.

Quirky Quotes

-"A wise person decides slowly but abides by these decisions"

-"Clothes and manners do not make the man; but when he is made, they greatly improve his appearance."

-"I don't care who you are, you're going to choke in certain matches. You get to a point where your legs don't move and you can't take a deep breath. You start to hit the ball about a yard wide, instead of inches."

-"I have tried to keep on with my striving because this is the only hope I have of ever achieving anything worthwhile and lasting."

-"If I were to say, "God, why me?" about the bad things, then I should have said, "God, why me?" about the good things that happened in my life."

-"True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost."

-"You've got to get to the stage in life where going for it is more important than winning or losing."

Death and Legacy

On account of his deteriorating condition and appearance, Ashe finally went public with his illness in 1992. He even spent his last few months making the world aware of AIDS and founded Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health. He finally succumbed to pneumonia on February 6, 1993.

Even though Ashe is long gone, his legacy lives on even today through the various fuondations and awards that have been named after him. He was also inducted in the Tennis Hall-Of-Fame, and he serves as a fine example of a man who fought adversity till his dying breath.