Last Saturday, KCTL took it's players, volunteers and parents to the US Open's Arthur Ashe Kids Day at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY. It's a great day for the kids to watch the professionals practice (there were Nadal, Federer and Djokovic sightings!), get on to the courts for tennis games, and watch live musical performances. But it's also a day to talk about Arthur Ashe and his legacy on and off the court. arthurashe

Arthur Ashe (1943-1993) was the first, and is still the only, African American male to win the US Open (1968) and Wimbledon (1975). He also won the Australian Open in 1970, and made it to the quarterfinals at the French Open in 1970 and 1971. As a doubles player, he won the Australian Open (1977) and French Open (1971). He also made the finals in Wimbledon (1971) and the US Open (1968).

After Ashe retired in 1980 after heart surgery, he became an author, a civil rights activist, chairman of the American Heart Association, a commentator for ABC Sports, captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team, and founder of the National Junior Tennis League (that KCTL is a part of.)

In 1983, with Harry Belafonte, Ashe founded the Artists and Athletes Against Apartheid. From the Arthur Ashe Learning Center website, "His commitment and efforts toward this cause were such that when Nelson Mandela, a political prisoner of the South African government for 27 years, was first set free and was asked whom in the U.S. he wished to have visit, he said, 'How about Arthur Ashe?'"

Arthur Ashe died in 1993 from AIDS-related pneumonia. He and his doctors believed he contracted the virus during his second open-heart surgery through blood transfusions. A year before his death, he went public with his illness. Ashe also founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS and Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health.

In 1979, he was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. In 1983, he was inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Hall of Fame. In 1985, he was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In 1986, Ashe won a sports Emmy.

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After his death, President Clinton posthumously awarded Ashe the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And in 1993, he received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged. The main stadium at the US Open, the Health and Wellness Center at his alma mater at UCLA, and an ESPN ESPY award are all named in his honor. In 2005, the USPS released a commemorative Arthur Ashe postal stamp.

To learn more about Arthur Ashe: