Arthur Ashe: remembering one of the sport’s greatest champions

Arthur Ashe runs for the ball during a match at Wimbledon in England.
Arthur Ashe runs for the ball during a match at Wimbledon in England. /
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Arthur Ashe
Arthur Ashe runs for the ball during a match at Wimbledon in England. /

Arthur Ashe is memorialized throughout the sport of tennis, including at the US Open. Here’s what he meant to both the world of sports and the communities that he touched.

Arthur Ashe won the inaugural US Open in 1968. Doing so not only made him the first African American male to win a US Open title, but it also made him the first player in Open Era to win the major tournament. Now, the main stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is named in his honor.

Throughout his tennis career, Ashe claimed three Grand Slam titles. He won the 1968 US Open, the 1970 Australian Open, and the 1975 Wimbledon Championships.

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Ashe’s impact is felt beyond the world of sports. While he was a pioneer in the sport of tennis, he was also an educator, civil rights activist, and a role model to all those who would come after him.

Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, Ashe experienced great adversity while also taking advantage of the opportunities he created with the help of those around him. Losing his mother at an early age, Ashe’s father provided the family with direction. Education, religion, and the sport of tennis would become staples in his life.

Excelling on the court, Arthur Ashe was the first African American ever selected by the US Davis Cup team.

He would continue to make firsts for African Americans in the sporting world throughout the rest of his career. When he won the US Open in 1968, he was even still registered as an amateur. Because of this, Ashe was unable to accept the prize money which went to runner-up Tom Okker. This, however, was just the start of Ashe’s incredible career.

The biggest year of Arthur Ashe’s career came in 1975.

Like his US Open victory, he would become and remains, the only African American male to ever win a title at Wimbledon.

Coming head-to-head with fellow rival, and one of the sport’s most accomplished players, Ashe found himself up against Jimmy Connors in the finals. He won in four sets, taking the match 6–1, 6–1, 5–7, 6–4. The Wimbledon title marked his third career Grand Slam singles title. That same year, Ashe took down Björn Borg in the season-ending World Championship Tennis Finals. Doing so cemented his name in the sport of tennis forever.