African American News and Genealogy

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Ashe's legacy growing stronger tennis

BY CHARLES BRICKERSouth Florida Sun-Sentinel FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - (KRT) - It has been nearly 30 years since Arthur Ashe defeated Jimmy Connors in the final at Wimbledon and forever changed the complexion of professional tennis. But only now, more than a generation later, is the game feeling the full force of Ashe's racial impact. There have never been more blacks in organized tennis than there are today, and there's every reason to believe the numbers will rise in the years to come. When Althea Gibson won the U.S. Open in 1957 and 1958, she was the only black American woman in the game. During Ashe's 12-year career, from 1968 to1979, he was virtually the only black American man in the game. Today, not only is the number of blacks on the pro tours at an all-time high, so is the small army of teenagers preparing to exit the junior ranks. Venus and Serena Williams, James Blake, Mashona Washington, Angela Haynes, Chanda Rubin and Shenay Perry have established careers. Behind them is the next wave - Jamea Jackson, Jewel Peterson, Timothy Neilly, Donald Young, Scoville Jenkins, Phillip Simmonds and Marcus Fugate. And behind them, just emerging as juniors, are three more major prospects - Asia Muhammad, 14, of Henderson, Nev.; Brittany Augustine, 13, of Northridge, Calif.; and Evan King, 13, of Chicago. There is finally a black pipeline in tennis, and it's flowing freely for three major reasons: _The profound influence Ashe had on the parents of the players that are out there today. _The commitment from the United States Tennis Association to reach out to inner-city children with the financial support to train them and fund their travel. _And, perhaps the greatest motivator, the prize money to be had in professional tennis. ``It's a revolution,'' said former pro Kim Sands, who was on Key Biscayne in December to watch Neilly defeat Young in the final of the Orange Bowl junior tournament, the first time black teenagers have faced each other for a major junior championship. ``I'm still shaking. To see that match . . . to see those two guys out there. It was a spiritual experience,'' said Sands, who was the University of Miami's first black player before embarking on a 10-year pro career that ended in 1987. Full Story:


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