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Arthur Ashe: Much More Than a Champion

Arthur Ashe’s rise to fame

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From humble beginnings to fortune, champion athlete Arthur Ashe’s story is something of a modern day fairy tail. However, his accomplishments were very real. Born in 1943 in the South, Ashe’s childhood was not an easy one.

Arthur Ashe Jr. and Sr. via Richmond Times

His mother passed away in 1950, leaving him and his brother to be raised only by their father. Arthur Sr.  Ashe’s father, was nothing short of strict and tough, but only because he wanted his kids to be successful at school and in sports. Ashe’s father said that he wasn’t allowed to play football, like alot of other children his age because he was skinny. Instead, Ashe took up tennis at the age of 7 since there was a tennis court in his neighborhood.

Ashe’s prodigious playing caught the attention of player Ron Charity, and his mentor Robert Walter Johnson. He trained under them for years, but since a lot of school championships were still segregated, he wasn’t allowed to compete against white players.

Arthur Ashe leads the UCLA Bruins to an NCAA Tennis Championship (June 22, 1965)

Fortunately, Ashe was awarded a scholarship to UCLA for tennis and he was able to play there and train with Pancho Gonzales. In 1963 he was selected to play by the United States Davis Cup Team. It was the first time a black athlete was chosen to do so. After graduating from UCLA, he joined the army and served until he was discharged in 1969.

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Ashe’s career was nothing short of amazing. Not only did he win at Wimbledon, The US Open and the Australian Open, but he was also an activist. He applied for a visa to play tennis in South Africa every year to protest apartheid.

Unfortunately, the 80’s were not a good time for Ashe. After his retirement, Ashe contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion. After he went public about it, he made a point of raising awareness for the disease and founding The Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS.

A tribute to this amazing man’s memory, the US Open is taking place at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

It is the main stadium of the US Open tennis tournament, the fourth and final Grand Slam tennis tournament of the calendar year — and is the largest tennis-specific stadium in the world (by capacity), with a capacity of 23,771.

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