US Open Re-Lived: Arthur Ashe

Following on from our most recent edition of Tennis Re-Lived on the life of Althea Gibson, in this episode we turn our attention to Arthur Ashe.

We cover his formative years growing up in Virginia under the Jim Crow laws, his development as an amateur tennis player while at college, his Grand Slam titles, his fights for civil rights and social justice, his passing from AIDS, and his enduring legacy.

Along the way, James Blake reveals how he indirectly credits Ashe with getting him into tennis, Leslie Allen talks about what it was like at Dr Johnson’s training facility for African-American players, Steve Flink analyses Ashe’s 1968 US Open victory and what made him so exciting to watch, Richard Evans discusses Ashe’s tactical masterclass against Jimmy Connors in the 1975 Wimbledon final , John McEnroe describes his special relationship with Ashe, Mary Carillo tells some of her favourite stories involving Arthur to explain what he was like, and Chanda Rubin reflects on his impact in tennis.

After looking closely at Ashe’s activism, including how he took on the issue of apartheid and the way he was criticised in some quarters for not being militant enough, we also reflect on Naomi Osaka’s decision not to play her match on Thursday at the Western & Southern Open, a move which led to tennis taking a stand against racial inequality by suspending play for a day. In what way was Osaka acting in the spirit of Ashe? And has the tide turned enough for athletes to now be rewarded for speaking out?

The Tennis Podcast is presented by Catherine Whitaker and David Law, and features Matt Roberts. It is produced weekly year-round, and daily during the Grand Slam tournaments. It is crowdfunded by listeners each December.


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