1968 Tennis Grand Slam winner
He was an inspirational figure through his achievements and the example he set both on and off the court, particularly for black players for whom he was a role model. He won three Grand Slam singles titles (the Australian, Wimbledon and the US Open) as well as the doubles at the French and the Australian. His record as a member of the US Davis Cup team, as player and non-playing captain was outstanding.
He made huge efforts to expand the outreach of the game of tennis both in the US and nationally, by bringing the sport closer to youth in less advantaged communities. In the latter period of his life during which his health deteriorated dramatically, he courageously went public about his health problems and sought to use the opportunity for the future benefit and education of others.
In recognition of these achievements, he was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985, only five years after his official retirement. His home town of Richmond, Virginia and his former ‘alma mater’, UCLA have both commemorated him with buildings in his honour. Perhaps, his greatest ‘crowning glory’, however, is the honour of having his name given to the main show court at Flushing Meadows, a cauldron of intensity with a capacity of 23, 000. Given the long roll call of famous players in the history of the game, that honour is a measure of the level of esteem in which he was universally held. It is a fitting honour for an individual who displayed such great determination, courage, talent and selflessness throughout his life.
In winning the 1968 US Open, Ashe was the first black man to have done so and it must be remembered, in a period when the US was only beginning to come to terms seriously with racial equality issues. This makes his achievement in 1968 even more momentous. In the first year of ‘open tennis’, it seems fitting that the new ‘openness’ also extended to having the first US Open won by a black player.
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