Fernando Gomez’s opinion: The African American who paved the way

Although it is true that they are somewhat beyond the merits that the reader of the first installment will already know, it is also true that, with the exception of Roland Garros, he played finals in the most important events he was able to reach during his active period and that his record remains the best of an African-American tennis player .

He didn’t spend a single week at world number one, but we must remember that the creation of the ATP rankings was in August 1973. After Ashe’s best years as a professional. However, on 10 May 1976, he was placed second in the list and at the end of the previous season, the ATP itself awarded him the Player of the Year award, largely due to the impact of his victory at Wimbledon, placing third. And his last Grand Slam singles title. Until almost the end of the second decade of his life, Arthur did not decide on one of the two sports in which he excelled. If he was a Virginia state champion with tennis (we already said that he was born in Richmond in 1943), he was also part of the best team in his city with American football. If he still had any doubts, they were clarified when in 1963 he won a scholarship to study and play tennis at the University of California, UCLA. He made a very impressive contribution to college tennis, both individually and as a team, with a double that is still remembered. In his sophomore year he was an NCAA and National Collegiate Athletic Association champion and a member of the winning team.

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The next thing was to devote himself to high-level tennis and we have already said that he contributed to the creation of the ATP, right after the end of the separation between different circles of professional and amateur players, those who are mistakenly called amateurs, because they also received undeclared prize money. The Open Era began in 1968 and Ashe had just transitioned from college tennis to unified tennis for the better. This was a major turnaround for him, as he was crowned champion of the Forest Hills Championship (three years after Manolo Santana, who did so in 1965), the current US Open, which was still played on grass in this neighborhood of New York. He defeated Dutchman Tom Okker in a grueling final 14-12, 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. He became the first African American to win the event and no one doubted that he was the best national player at the time.

In the aforementioned context, Ash contributed to his country’s victory in the Davis Cup as well in 1968. However, five years ago he became the first black player on the United States national team. In 1963, the Americans were champions and Ashe contributed a victory over Venezuela to conquer the American zone. But in 1968, it was necessary throughout the six qualifiers to achieve the final victory that the United States achieved as a visitor over Australia in Adelaide. He won 11 of the 12 singles matches he played. The next two years he was less well known, but he was also part of the group that won the Silver Salad Bowl. His last contribution as a player for Davis came in winning the tournament against the United Kingdom in 1978, after achieving the decisive point in the semi-final against Sweden. He was also a coach between 1980 and 1984, during which time he led the United States to championships in 1981 and 1982.

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Ashe won all three Grand Slam titles on grass. He was the first African American winner of the three. Next was the second edition of the professional era of the Australian Open, where he succeeded Australian Rod Laver on the winners list. He did so after defeating fellow Australian Dick Creeley in Sydney 6-4, 9-7, 6-2. He achieved his last major championship despite the difficulties and when he felt it was his last chance. In the 1975 Wimbledon final, he prevented compatriot Jimmy Connors from defending the previous year’s title by winning in four sets: 6-1, 6-1, 5-7 and 6-4. This was the seventh and final Grand Slam final in which he participated. He lost three times in Australia and in 1972 in his country to Romanian Ilie Nastase in five sets. When he retired in 1980, after heart surgery, he had won 33 singles titles in 65 finals appearances. One was when he lost the 1976 Masters in Houston to the man who ended up becoming a great friend and remains the main supporter of his tennis legacy, also American John McEnroe. Tennis magazine considered Ash one of the 30 best players of the Open Era and the US Postal Service issued a stamp bearing his image in 2005. A statue was erected in his hometown as a tribute to what he represented and also gives validity to the name. center.

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