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$250 for winning the US Open. How the legendary Arthur Ashe fought inequality

Date: April 21, 2024 Time: 02:41:24

Shortly before his death, American tennis great Arthur Ashe gave an interview to USA Today, in which he answered the question of whether there is justice in life. “Around the world, 50 million children start playing tennis, 5 million master the technique of the game, 500 thousand study professional tennis. 50,000 compete in professional tournaments, 5 thousand reach the Grand Slam level, one hundred have the honor of playing at Wimbledon, four in the semifinals, two in the final. When I held the winner’s trophy on center court, I didn’t ask God, “Why me?” So today, when I am only 49 years old and in pain, I should not ask God “Why me?” – Ash philosophized.

The black American did not complain about his fate either when he was seven years old without his mother, who died from complications after pregnancy, or during the ban on playing on tennis courts for whites, or after the management of the US Open If he refuses to pay, he will be given the full amount of the prize money for winning the 1968 tournament. The first and so far only black winner of an American major was left without prize money of $14,000 because he entered the tournament as an amateur. Arthur, 25, was then serving in the US Army and received only $250 a day.

The advice his father gave him helped the champion cope with life’s shocks: no matter how difficult it is, know that somewhere there is a person who is now 100 times tougher. Therefore, no matter what business Ash took up, he always gave it 1000%.

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To feed his family and two children, Arthur’s father worked three jobs: as a factory worker, as a night watchman, and on weekends he unloaded cars with coal. However, there was still not enough money. Ash really liked American football, but the future champion grew up so sickly and frail that he was forbidden to play for fear of damaging his fragile bones. The boy then moved on to tennis and for the first year played with a homemade racket made for him by his grandfather.

Ash gives a master class to children in Washington DC

Photo: Getty Images

Arthur was drawn to the city park in his native Richmond: elegantly dressed people played tennis, but they all had white skin and Ash couldn’t even dream of playing on a perfectly flat surface. Access to blacks was prohibited: the boy lived in Virginia, one of the most segregated states, the last hot spot of the American Civil War. Therefore, the boy had to train in a miserable place with bald spots, but in a very friendly environment. Ash’s talent, nicknamed Shadow by his classmates (because of his exceptional thinness), was recognized by tennis instructor Ron Charity and helped him win the school championship at the age of 12. At 17, Arthur was already the strongest junior in the United States: in the final he defeated a white-skinned opponent, who insulted him throughout the match, and the referee did not seem to notice.

“He tried to scare, he threatened. But for me, fear is not a reason to reach a dead end. This is just an incentive to go out and attack,” Ash maintained control. At age 20, Arthur became the first black tennis player to be called up to the United States national team and continued to progress rapidly. The flexible and incredibly fast African-American especially improved after he began training with his idol Pancho González. The two-time Casco winner helped Arthur improve his game at the net and finally decide his style: if in his early years Ash preferred to play from the baseline, thanks to Pancho he decided on “serve and volley.” “. And he reached an incredibly high level playing on the net.

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Thanks to tennis, Arthur received a scholarship to study business management at the University of California, Los Angeles, and after graduation, he was drafted into the army for two years. Having risen to the rank of lieutenant, Ashe might not have won the US Open in 1968, because at the time he had to fight in Vietnam. Knowing how much progress in his tennis career meant to Arthur (he had already lost two years in the barracks), his younger brother Johnny showed great generosity. He had already served in Vietnam, but instead of a loved one he went to a troubled place for the second time. Of note, in 1968 Ashe won both the US Amateur Championship and the first US Open; largely thanks to these victories, he became an international tennis star.

Arthur after the US Open final with Tom Okker, who received $14,000 in prize money.

Photo: Authenticated News/Getty Images

However, Arthur visited Vietnam, and more than once. Together with his friend Charlie Pasarel, he held exhibition matches in Saigon, Da Nang and other cities to boost the soldiers’ morale. In the 1970s, Ash not only lit up the world’s major tennis courts, but also fought for players’ rights. Tournament directors often cheated tennis players, underpaid them, put them up in cheap hotels, and refused to pay them compensation if they were injured in a match. “True heroism is devoid of drama. It is not the desire to surpass others at any cost, but the desire to serve others at any cost,” often repeated Arthur, who in 1972, together with like-minded people, created the Association of Tennis Professionals ( ATP) to protect the interests of the players. Uncompromising and strong-willed, Ash was elected president of the organization.

“Reading stories about how 12-year-old Arthur wasn’t allowed to play, I thought, ‘Wow! Thanks to what he went through and what he did, I have many more opportunities than people of my race had a few decades ago,” dark-skinned multiple Grand Slam winner Serena Williams admired her compatriot. Ash won his second “Helmet” in 1970 in Australia, and five years later he fulfilled the main dream of his life. After defeating Jimmy Connors in the decisive match on the London courts (Arthur, 10 years older, was considered a clear loser), he became the Wimbledon champion, the first and only black player to win the most prestigious grass tournament. .

Ash in a meeting with Nelson Mandela, who led the fight to end apartheid in South Africa

Photo: CNN Films

Largely thanks to Ash’s high-profile victories, blacks in the United States began to receive more and more rights, but the tennis player’s fight was not limited to his homeland. In 1974, Arthur protested at the South African embassy in Washington against the apartheid regime, for which he was arrested and spent several days in a police station. This happened due to the exclusion of black players from tournaments in South Africa. After finishing his degree, Ash published the book “The Hard Road to Glory” about the problems of the black athlete in society.

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In the late 1970s, Ash did not play as often due to chronic injuries, but occasionally he shone: in the final tournament of 1978 he reached the final, in which he lost to John McEnroe. Arthur’s plans to continue his career were hampered by a heart attack in the fall of 1979; A month later, the tennis player underwent heart surgery. It turned out that most of his relatives had problems of this type. Ash stopped actively performing, but did not abandon tennis: as captain of the US national team, the legend led the team to victory in two Davis Cups (1981, 1982).

Arthur chose educational activities on racial inequality as his main mission. He wrote books, lectured at universities and worked extensively in television. The authorities did not like his active position: in 1985, the tennis player again spent the night in a police station, this time he spoke out against President Bush’s policy towards Haitian refugees infected with HIV/AIDS. It soon became clear that this problem was much closer to Ash than it seemed: during one of two heart surgeries he received a blood transfusion and the tennis player became infected with HIV.

The Soul in Flight statue, depicting the life and achievements of Arthur Ashe, stands in front of the main entrance to Ashe Stadium.

Photo: Tim Clayton/Getty Images

Arthur organized a public awareness campaign about the disease and created an AIDS fund. The great tennis player, activist and public figure died on February 6, 1993, due to complications from pneumonia. U.S. President Bill Clinton posthumously awarded Ashe the United States’ highest civilian honor: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

During his short but eventful career, Ash made an enormous and multifaceted contribution to the development of society: he became a tennis legend, founded an association of professional players to protect their rights, helped defeat segregation in the United States, and changed attitudes towards terminally ill people. In Richmond, a massive monument was erected to him in the same park where talents were once banned from playing, and in New York, the $254 million US Open main stadium is named after him.

* This website provides news content gathered from various internet sources. It is crucial to understand that we are not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information presented Read More

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.
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