The Amateur Years
Numerous universities offered the young athlete and scholar a place in their freshman class. Ashe chose UCLA, which boasted one of the country's best collegiate tennis programs, and intended to study architecture or engineering. However, Ashe's coach urged him to major in business administration so he could better balance his studies, tennis practice and travel, ROTC, and the 250 hours of work his scholarship required he give to the college. The strategy paid off. When Ashe entered UCLA he was twenty-eighth in the U.S. amateur rankings. Two years and numerous tournaments later, Ashe was ranked sixth.
Under the tutelage of coach J. D. Morgan, who'd scouted Ashe, and Pancho Gonzalez, Ashe honed his aggressive court style, with a powerful backhand and speed-of-light serve. This was the ammunition that made him such a success on the faster grass and hard court surfaces. By the time he graduated from UCLA, he'd captured the NCAA singles and doubles (with Ian Crookenden) titles, played on the U.S. Davis Cup team, won the Johnston Award for his contribution to the sport, and was the country's number-one collegiate competitor. But perhaps most satisfying was the naming of February 4 as Arthur Ashe Day in the city of Richmond. "Ten years ago," Ashe said in a speech that day, "this would not have happened. It is as much a tribute to Richmond and the state of Virginia as it is to me."
Ashe was inducted into the army in 1966, the year he graduated from UCLA. During the two years Ashe served in the army, first as deputy brigade commander in Fort Lewis, Washington, and then as a second lieutenant, his tennis career stalled somewhat. After boot camp, he was offered the position of assistant tennis coach at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, which he accepted, but it still didn't leave him much time to develop his game. He did reach the U.S. Indoor Championship finals in 1966, won the U.S. Clay Court Championship the following year, and at one point had a 9-0 singles Davis Cup record, but he missed a number of major tournaments and lost in the third round in straight sets to Australian John Newcombe at the U.S. Nationals.