3 minute read

Arthur Ashe

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."


1943 Born July 10 in Richmond, Virginia
1950 Mother dies of complications from surgery
1957 Plays his first integrated event, becoming first African American to play in the Maryland boys' championships
1959 Debuts at U.S. National Championships
1963 First African American ever picked for U.S. Davis Cup team
1963 Debuts at Wimbledon
1964 First major grass-court title at Eastern Grass Court Championships
1965 Wins National Collegiate Athletic Association singles and doubles title
1966 Earns his bachelor of science degree in business administration from UCLA; inducted into Army
1968 As America's top-ranked amateur player, wins first of seven Davis Cups as member of U.S. team
1969 Wins U.S. Open and Davis Cup
1970 Wins Australian Open
1970 Lobbies to have South Africa expelled from International Lawn Tennis Federation; serves as U.S. Goodwill Ambassador to Africa
1973 First visit to South Africa; becomes first black professional to play in its national championships
1974 Elected President of Association of Tennis Professionals
1975 Wins World Champion Tennis Championships
1975 Wins Wimbledon
1975 Becomes top-ranked player in the world
1977 Weds photographer Jeanne Marie Moutoussamy
1978 Last tournament win of career, Pacific Southwest Championships in Los Angeles
1979 Suffers heart attack and undergoes quadruple-bypass surgery
1980 Retires from competitive tennis
1981-85 Named captain of U.S. Davis Cup team
1983 Undergoes second bypass surgery and receives blood transfusion
1985 Arrested in anti-apartheid demonstration outside South African embassy in Washington
1986 Daughter Camera is born in New York
1988 Hospitalized for bacterial infection, leading to HIV diagnosis
1991 Returns to South Africa with U.S. delegation as observer of political changes
1992 Arrested for demonstrating in front of White House on behalf of Haitian refugees
1992 Announces he has AIDS
1992 Founds Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS
1993 Dies of AIDS-related pneumonia on February 6
1996 Arthur Ashe monument erected in Richmond
1997 Main stadium at site of U.S. Open in New York City named Arthur Ashe Stadium

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.

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsTennisArthur Ashe Biography - Growing Up, Early Lessons, The Amateur Years, Chronology, Ranked Number One, Center Court