Arthur Ashe: The first black to be ranked world No. 1

Arthur Ashe was the first black to be ranked world No. 1 in tennis. 
He is still the only black man to ever win singles at the US Open, Wimbledon and the Australian Open. 
Arthur Ashe died on February 6, 1993, of AIDS-related pneumonia at the age of 49. 

Arthur Ashe is one of the tennis greats the world will never forget. He was the first black to be ranked world No. 1 in tennis. 

The American international began playing tennis at the age of seven and went on to achieve great success. 

Arthur was the first black player selected to the United States Davis Cup team and the first black man to win three Grand Slams.

Arthur Ashe. Photo/ Medium.

Up to now, he is the only black man to ever win singles at the US Open, Wimbledon and the Australian Open. 

Arthur became the first black to be ranked world No. 1 in 1975 when Bud Collins ranked him. He was also ranked as the best tennis player that year by Tennis Magazine (U.S.), World Tennis, Judith Elian, Rex Bellamy and Lance Tingay. 

Arthur married Jeanne Moutoussamy in February 1977. The couple adopted a daughter in December 1986 and named her Camera.

Arthur Ashe died on February 6, 1993, of AIDS-related pneumonia at the age of 49. 

Arthur Ashe’s Early Life  

Arthur Ashe was born in Richmond, Virginia, on July 10, 1943, to Arthur Ashe Sr. (father) and Mattie Cordell Cunningham (mother). He had a brother who was five years younger than him. 

Arthur’s mother passed away when he was seven years old. As a result, the future tennis star and his brother were raised by his father, who was a strict disciplinarian. 

Ashe had the nicknames “Skinny” and “Bones” due to his slender body. His father encouraged him to participate in any other sport except American football because of his body. 

Arthur Ashe, the first black to be ranked world No. 1 in tennis, began playing the sport when he was seven. In 1950, he met Ronald Charity, who was at that time one of the best black tennis players and a part-time coach. 

Ronald Charity took interest in Arthur Ashe and began training him regularly. He later introduced Arthur to Dr Walter Johnson, who was at that time coaching Althea Gibson. 

Under Dr Johnson, Arthur became the first black to play in the Maryland boys’ championships. Racism during those days meant that his opponents were only black players from Richmond. 

His only chance of playing against other races was during the summer when he travelled around the country. Arthur won multiple junior tennis tournaments hence getting featured in Sports Illustrated as a Face in the Crowd on December 12, 1960. 

As a result, the University of California, Los Angeles, offered him a full scholarship after graduating from high school. During his college days, he continued to perform well in class, as well as excelling in tennis. 

While at UCLA, Arthur Ashe became the first black to be named to the U.S. Davis Cup Team and won the individual NCAA championship in 1965. 

Arthur Ashe joined the military in 1966 and continued to play amateur tennis. 

Professional Career 

After leaving the US Army in 1968, Arthur decided to become a professional tennis player. He competed at the US Open and became the first black to win the Grand Slam in 1968.

Arthur Ashe. Photo/ CBS News.

Arthur applied for a visa to travel to South Africa to compete in the South African Open.

However, the South African government denied his visa request because of Apartheid. Arthur continued to apply for visas, but the nation continued rejecting his application. 

As a result, he began campaigning against Apartheid, a fight he would continue for the next twenty years. 

Arthur Ashe, the first black to be ranked world No. 1, won the Australian Open in January 1970. Alongside Jack Kramer and other tennis icons, Arthur contributed to creating the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) in 1972. 

South Africa eventually granted his visa request in 1973, and he became the first black to play in the national championships. He won the doubles title alongside Tom Okker and reached the singles final. 

Arthur won the Wimbledon singles title on July 5, 1975, after defeating Jimmy Connors.

The tennis icon officially retired on April 16, 1980, after undergoing heart surgery the previous year. His career record was 818 wins, 260 losses and 51 titles.

Arthur Ashe. Photo/ SportsRegras.

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