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Arthur Ashe

Ashe's Legacy

Arthur Ashe's legacy is manifold. Rarely have sports celebrities taken on social issues with such passion and commitment as did Ashe. He broke color barriers both in his own country and abroad, and fought tirelessly for social justice, founding the African American Athletic Association to mentor student athletes and helping preserve the history of African-American athletes with his contributions to the 1988 A Hard Road to Glory. He helped erase the stigma of having AIDS, raised public awareness of this devastating epidemic, and spoke to the United Nations General Assembly in an effort to get more funds devoted to AIDS research. In 1990, when President Nelson Mandela, freed from his South African jail after twenty-seven years, was asked which American he'd most like to meet, his immediate response was "Arthur Ashe." Tennis champion Martina Navratilova characterized Ashe, as reported in the Washington Post (and quoted in Newsmakers 1993), as "an extraordinary human being who transcended his sport, his race, religion and nationality and in his own way helped to change the world."

Related Biography: Tennis Player Yannick Noah

Yannick Simon Camille Noah was born on May 18, 1960, in Sedan, France, and at the age of three he moved with his family to his father's native country of Cameroon. In 1971, while attending a tennis clinic at a local club, Noah was given the chance to play with Ashe, who was making his second goodwill tour of Africa. Ashe, moved by the youngster's plight and his talent, arranged to have Noah enrolled at the French Tennis Federation (FTF) training center in Nice, France, where he trained for five years. One year short of graduation, Noah left school to focus exclusively on tennis. In 1977, Noah won the French junior title and the Wimbledon junior title, after which he went professional.

In 1978, Noah took the Australian Open and U.S. Open singles titles, and in 1979 made it to the semis and finals at the French Open and Wimbledon. His Grand Slam performances earned him the top ranking in France in 1980. At age twenty-three he won the French Open, and a year later he and partner Henri Leconte won the doubles title there.

Noah stayed off the tennis circuit for a year to recover from injuries and the devastating death of his grandfather. He came back to his game to win the Italian Open in 1985, but what looked like an auspicious return to the game was only transitory. He played his way to the finals of many tournaments and achieved the ranking in 1986 of third in the world in singles play and first in doubles, yet the more prestigious titles eluded him. After pursuing a music career for a few years, he trained the French team in 1996 for the Davis Cup and the Fed Cup, the premier international team event for women. In both events, France was victorious.

Noah lives in Montreux, Switzerland, and often participates in the charitable tennis tournaments and the ATP Senior Tour tournaments in Switzerland.

Increasing minority presence in all sectors of society was a vision to which Arthur Ashe dedicated his life. "I know I could never forgive myself," Ashe wrote in his memoir, "if I elected to live without human purpose, without trying to help the poor and unfortunate, without recognizing that perhaps the purest joy in life comes from trying to help others." Ashe was adamant about the necessity of increasing minority participation throughout society, not just in the sports arena. "We deify black athletes," the Houston Chronicle quoted Ashe as saying in 1992. "Black families are eight times more likely to push youngsters into athletics than are white families.… The disparity is glaring." Shortly after his retirement, Ashe said (according to an article on About.com), "We have been on the same roads-sports and entertainmenttoo long. We need to pull over, fill up at the library, and speed away to Congress and to the Supreme Court, the unions and the business world."

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