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Arthur Ashe Fun Facts: 8 Great Things You Should Know About the Tennis Legend


Arthur Ashe transcended sport. He left an indelible mark on tennis and his off-the-court activism earned him greater admiration. The tennis legend lived and played during the height of racial segregation. His achievements demonstrated his will and determination to challenge societal stereotypes and make things better for minority communities. Here are more Arthur Ashe fun facts for you.     

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Academically Gifted

We start our Arthur Ashe fun facts list with his academic achievements. Although he’s widely known for his tennis and activism, Ashe cherished education. 

He was a first-class graduate from his summer school and earned a scholarship at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He earned a degree in Business Administration. 

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Diagnosed with HIV/AIDS

In 1988, Arthur Ashe was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. It’s reported that he got the disease from a blood transfusion during surgery. 

He kept it to himself but went public in 1992. According to Eric Allen Hall, author of Arthur Ashe’s book on his tennis and activism, people reacted positively to the news. 

A year earlier, another sports figure, Magic Johnson, announced his diagnosis with the same illness. This helped to raise awareness about the disease and fight stigma. 

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Grand Slam Champion

An Arthur Ashe fun facts list wouldn’t be complete without highlighting one of his biggest tennis achievements. Ashe was a five-time grand slam champion. His first came at the U.S. Open in 1968. 

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He then followed it up with a victory at the Australian Open in 1970 and Wimbledon in 1975. He was the first African-American to win the singles title in these events and still holds the record.

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Has a Stadium Named After Him

Osaka vs Coco, US Open 2019 at the Arthur Ashe Stadium
Osaka vs Coco, US Open 2019 at the Arthur Ashe Stadium. Source: Wikimedia licensed by Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

When the main court of the U.S. Open was opened in 1997, it was named after Arthur Ashe, the first black man to win the tournament in 1968. It replaced the Louis Armstrong Stadium as the tournament’s main stadium. It has a capacity of 23,771. In 2016, a retractable roof was added to prevent weather delays. It’s the biggest of any roof in a tennis stadium in the world.

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Political Activism

Arthur Ashe carried the burden of race. He was the only black player on tour and took it upon himself to change the landscape of tennis. Ashe used his platform and created opportunities for black kids

Additionally, he protested against South Africa’s apartheid system after he was denied a visa to play in the South African Open. He was granted one in 1973 after immense political pressure on the South African government. Ashe reached the finals of the singles event and won the doubles alongside Tom Okker.

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Represented the U.S in the Davis Cup

Arthur Ashe was a man of firsts. He became the first black man to join and captain the U.S. Davis Cup team. His first inclusion was in 1963, and was part of the team in 1968, 1969, 1970, and 1975. 

Rose to World Number 1

Another Arthur Ashe fun fact is that he was the first African-American man to reach the number-one ranking in tennis. In 1975, he defeated Jimmy Conors in the Wimbledon final to create this piece of history. 

Tennis International Hall of Fame

Ashe has a long list of records to his name. For his contribution to the sport, he was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985. Again, he was the first African-American man to receive this honor. 

Arthur Ashe broke several barriers for people of color. His courage and boldness earned him the recognition he still enjoys today. Which of these Arthur Ashe fun facts didn’t you know before?

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