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Arthur Ashe

Center Court

Over the course of the next few years, Ashe's game seemed to stagnate. A new generation of competitors, such as Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors, were testing his dynamic serve-and-volley game with power, precision, and an almost appalling sense of confidence. By 1975, Ashe's ranking had sunk to fifth place. Some blamed his political activism for his deteriorating game, others his age (he was 31). Ashe steeled himself, determined to win the World Champion Tennis title that spring in Dallas, Texas. He did. But an even bigger victory was in sight.

Awards and Accomplishments

American Tennis Association (ATA) is the oldest African-American sports organization in the United States.
Davis Cup: (as player) 1963, 1965-70, 1975, 1977-78, won 27 singles; (as captain) 1981-85, won 1981, 1982.
Ashe retired in 1980 with a career record of 818 wins, 260 losses, and 51 titles.
1955 ATA 12-and-under singles; ATA 12-and-under doubles
1956 ATA 15-and-under doubles
1957 ATA 15-and-under singles
1958 15-and-under singles; ATA 15-and-under doubles
1960 18-and-under singles; ATA men's singles; U.S. Junior Indoors singles
1961 ATA men's singles; ATA men's doubles; U.S. Junior Indoors singles; U.S. Interscholastics singles
1962 ATA men's singles
1963 ATA men's singles; U.S. Hard Courts singles
1964 Eastern Grass Court Championship; sixth-ranked amateur in nation
1964 Received Johnston Award for contributing the most to the growth of tennis while exhibiting good sportsmanship
1965 NCAA singles; NCAA doubles
1967 U.S. Clay Courts singles
1968 U.S. National singles; U.S. Open singles
1970 U.S. Indoors doubles; Australian Open singles
1971 French Open doubles
1975 World Championship Tennis singles; Wimbledon singles
1975 Named Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Player of the Year
1977 Australian Open doubles
1985 Inducted into International Tennis Hall of Fame
1992 Named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year

When Arthur Ashe stepped onto the grass at Wimbledon and bowed to the Royal Box, the last thing on his

Arthur Ashe

mind was the fact that he was the first African American to compete in the exclusive court of the world's oldest tennis tournament. The date was July 5, 1975, and Ashe was playing for the men's singles title. The challenge would require his complete concentration. His opponent was one of the top-seeded players, twenty-two-year-old fellow American Jimmy Connors. The two had battled before and in all three of their matches, Ashe had been the loser. Sports fans on both sides of the Atlantic expected the brash and self-taught Connors to "slaughter" Ashe, as Ashe noted in his memoir Days of Grace.

In addition, only days before Wimbledon, Connors had filed a lawsuit against Ashe for libel. Ashe was not intimidated. He'd stood by his principles, having accused Connors of playing matches for big purses while refusing to join the United States squad for the international Davis Cup competition, where players are paid in the currency of patriotic honor, not hard cash. Despite the lawsuit, Ashe retained his cool and even demeanor.

Ashe won Wimbledon by finessing the hard-hitting Connors with a brilliantly strategic game of defensive tennis. He played conservatively, hitting balls deep then rushing the net, keeping Connors off balance. Also, Ashe had decided that rather than try to outpower the southpaw, he'd hit the ball softly, breaking Connors' rhythm. It would also force Connors to generate his own power, rather than simply redirect the ball using Ashe's velocity. Ashe's plan for the historic match would later help some of the decade's best players—Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, and John McEnroe—undercut Connors' phenomenal, dominating power game. With a 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 victory at Wimbledon, he not only obtained the number-one ranking in the world that year but saw the culmination of a lifetime of struggle. "When I took the match point, all the years, all the effort, all the support I had received over the years came together," he later reflected.

Additional topics

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