On This Day: Arthur Ashe Retires From Tennis - UBITENNIS
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On This Day: Arthur Ashe Retires From Tennis

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Today marks the 37th anniversary of when Arthur Ashe pulled the curtain on a career that continues to inspire generations of tennis players.

 

Born in 1943, Ashe’s rise to the top was one that defied the odds. Growing up in a society where black people were treated as second class citizens, he became one of the most prominent civil rights campaigners in sport. At the age of 20 he became the first black American to play in the Davis Cup.

Ashe’s Davis Cup milestone was the first of many. Whilst still working as a serving officer for the Reserve Officers Training Corp (ROTC), he won his maiden grand slam title at the 1968 US Open. He wasn’t just the first African-American winner, he was also the first US Open champion of the Open Era. Two years later, he also won the Australian Open.

“Being an African American playing tennis, his impact on me was great and I wanted to follow in his footsteps, being someone that went to college and was educated and had such a great influence on the world,” James Blake once told CNN about Ashe’s influence.

A two-time grand slam champion, there was still barriers in his career. His support for the American civil rights movement resulted in the South African apartheid government refusing to grant him a visa to play in the 1970 South African Open. It wasn’t until 1973 Ashe became the first black player to participate in the tournament. He wasn’t just there to win matches. He wanted to be there to prove he belonged.

Few could doubt that Ashe belonged on the court. In 1975 he clinched his third and final major title at the Wimbledon Championships. The run to a trophy could have been mistaken for a movie script. The troubled relationship between Ashe and Jimmy Connors was at one of its lowest points. In the lead up to the tournament Connors announced that he was suing Ashe for $5 million over allegations he made in a letter. Meeting each other in the final, Connors was the standout favourite. The American reached the showdown without dropping a set and had beaten Ashe in all six of their previous meetings. Nevertheless, Ashe produced a masterful display to prevail in four sets. As for Connors, he dropped the lawsuit shortly after his defeat.

The sad end of an incredible journey

Four years after his Wimbledon triumph, a cruel twist resulted in the end of Ashe’s career. In 1979 he underwent an urgent a quadruple bypass operation after suffering a heart attack. The world of sport was in shock over what had happened to a seemingly invincible figure. His attempt to return ultimately failed. Ashe’s realisation of his retirement occurred in March 1980. Whilst in Cairo on Holiday, Ashe suffered a bout of angina while out on a run. That sole moment triggered the end of an era.

“As we flew out of Cairo, I knew one thing for sure: My career was over.” Ashe once wrote about the incident.

He officially retired on April 16th, 1980.

A force like no other

Sadly Ashe only managed to enjoy 13 years of retirement before passing away at the age of 49 in 1993 due to complications from AIDS. In 1988 he tested positive for HIV after contracting the illness during a blood transfusion. It wasn’t until 1992 that Ashe told the public that he was HIV-positive after USA Today was set to announce it before him.

“Some of you heard that I had tested positive for HIV,” Ashe said. “That is indeed the case.”

Those words from Ashe’s mouth occurred just 10 months before his death. Like his entire growing up, his quest for helping others remained his focus until his final days. Setting-up an AIDS  foundation, he wanted to eradicate misconceptions surrounding the virus.

24 years have now passed since his death, but Ashe continues to inspire. Serena Williams once said ‘his legacy still lives on in one of the greatest ways.’ She isn’t wrong. Remembered for his campaign for civil rights in a world where he was an outsider, the man born in Virginia continues to be remembered. The US Open has named their premier stadium in his honour. Meanwhile the ATP presents an annual humanitarian award named after Ashe.

There has never been a player like Ashe since he died and it is likely there never will be again.

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Arthur Rinderknech claims his first Challenger title in Istanbul

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French 25-year-old player Arthur Rinderknech started his 2021 season with his third career Challenger title in Istanbul after beating his compatriot Benjamin Bonzi 4-6 7-6 (7-1) 7-6 (7-3) after 2 hours and 17 minutes. In the erlier rounds he beat Next Gen player Brandon Nakashima, Marc-Andrea Huesler in the quarter final and Jozef Kovalik in the semifinal. 

 

Rinderknech becomes the first qualifier to win an ATP Challenger since Carlos Alcaraz won the Trieste tournament last August. 

Rinderknech won seven matches in eight days as a qualifier on the indoor hard courts of the TED Sports Club in Istanbul. The Frenchman has improved his best ranking by 43 spots to reach a career-high number 135 in the ATP Ranking. 

Rinderknech improved his best ranking by nearly 200 spots to a year-end position inside the top 200 in 2020. He started last year’s season with a Challenger title in Rennes and claimed his second title in Calgary. He received a main draw wild-card at Roland Garros and made his Grand Slam debut in the French capital. 

Rinderknech is playing this week in another Challenger tournament in the Open Quimper Bretagne Occidentale. He is one of nine players in the top 150 in Quimper. 

“It feels great to win the first Challenger of the year and even more when it’s a 125-level tournament. I am happy about the way I handled things this week and went through seven matches in eight days”, said Rinderknech. 

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‘I Play For Grand Slams’ – Serena Williams Hails Quarantine Measures Ahead Of Australian Open

The tennis star gives her own view about the quarantine process in Australia.

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Former world No.1 Serena Williams has praised Australian authorities over their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as she nears her return to professional tennis.

 

The multiple Grand Slam winner is currently conducting her 14-day quarantine process in Adelaide along with her team and family as part of the rules set out by Tennis Australia. All players have been kept inside what has been described as a ‘bubble’ for their first two weeks of arriving in the country before they are allowed to play any tournaments. Those who test positive or are a contact case of somebody who has tested positive for COVID-19 must stay in their rooms at all times.

As a result of the procedures, some players have complained about the conditions and how they have been treated. Spain’s Paula Badosa, who has the coronavirus, says she feels ‘abandoned’ by authorities. The world No.67 has been moved to a health hotel with her coach following the positive test. There has also been some complaints from others over their rooms, food and allegations of preferential treatment for those in Adelaide.

On the other hand, Williams says she has no problems with what she describes as a ‘super intense’ quarantine as she pays tribute to those running the system.

“It’s super, super strict, but it’s really good,” Williams told The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.
“It’s insane and super intense but it’s super good because after that you can have a new normal like we were used to this time last year in the United States.
“It’s definitely hard with a three-year-old to be in the hotel all day, but it’s worth it because you want everyone to be safe at the end of the day.”

The 39-year-old will head to Melbourne Park next week with the goal of trying to tie the all-time record for most Grand Slam titles held by a singles player. It was at the Australian Open where she recorded her last major triumph back in 2017. However, since then Williams has only won one title which was at the ASB Classic 12 months ago. Although she did finish runner-up at four majors between 2018-2019.

“I play right now for Grand Slams and I love to have the opportunity to still be out there and to compete at this level,” she stated.
“It (the Australian Open) was one of my favourite slams growing up. I have so many friends in Melbourne, it’s really nice. Every time I win a Grand Slam it means the world to me so they are all really special.”

Williams’ Grand Slam tally currently stands at 23 which is one behind Margaret Court. Although Court won 13 of her titles prior to the start of the Open Era in 1968 which was when Grand Slams allowed professional players to compete with amateurs.

This Friday Williams will take on Naomi Osaka in the ‘Day at the Drive’ exhibition event in Adelaide.

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‘An Incredible Job’ – Nick Kyrgios Hails Strict Australian Open Quarantine Measures

The outspoken Australian also explains why he believes it is right to publicly criticise top names such as Novak Djokovic.

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Nick Kyrgios says he feels safer playing tennis than last year following a series of COVID-19 measures that have been implemented ahead of the Australian Open.

 

The former top-20 star has hailed the action taken by authorities which has triggered a somewhat mixed response from other players. Those playing in the first Grand Slam of the season are currently going through a 14-day quarantine with 72 players being unable to leave their room after being deemed a close contact of somebody who has tested positive for the virus. A series of positive tests was detected on flights en route to the country.

Although some players have criticised the process with allegations of poor room standards and preferential treatment for the top players who are currently based in Adelaide instead of Melbourne. Spain’s Paula Badosa tested positive for COVID-19 on the sixth day of her quarantine and had symptoms. In a recent interview with the Marca newspaper, Badosa says she feels ‘abandoned’ by authorities during what is the ‘worst experience’ of her career.

However, Kyrgios has hailed the comprehensive approach that has been taken by the authorities. He was one of the few players not to travel to Europe or North America during the second part of last year due to concerns related to the Pandemic. Compatriot Ash Barty was another to do the same.

“In Melbourne, with obviously the bubble, they’ve done an incredible job there. The authorities aren’t letting up and [are] making sure everyone is sticking by the rules,” Kyrgios told CNN.
“I actually feel quite safe. I didn’t really feel safe during last year, traveling and playing overseas, I thought it was a bit too soon to play.
“I think now the conditions are safe enough and everyone is going to work together and make sure we do it the right way.
“I don’t want to put anyone else at risk. I have loved ones that I don’t want to even have the chance to expose to Covid so I think it’s safe enough.”

Renowned for his at times fiery behaviour on the Tour and outspoken tone, the 25-year-old has no intention of changing his habits. Last summer he hit out at a series of his peers over their behaviour during the pandemic and blasted the Adria Tour. An exhibition series co-founded by Novak Djokovic which had to end early following an outbreak of the virus among players and staff members.

Djokovic is one of the players who Kyrgios has criticised the most in recent times. On January 18th he called the 17-time Grand Slam champion a ‘tool’ on Twitter after his letter to Craig Tiley was leaked to the public. Nevertheless, Kyrgios has no regrets over his comments as he feels it is vital to hold the top names accountable as he drew parallels between Djokovic and NBA great LeBron James.

I think it’s very important, especially one of the leaders of our sport. He’s technically our LeBron James,” he said.
“He has to set an example for all tennis players out there and set an example for tennis,”
added Kyrgios. “I think when he was doing some of the things that he was doing during the global pandemic, it just wasn’t the right time.
“I know everyone makes mistakes. Even some of us go off track sometimes but I think we need to hold each other accountable.
“I’m not doing any of this stuff for media attention, these are the morals that I’ve grown up with. I was just trying to do my part.”

Due to a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and injury, Kyrgios hasn’t played a full competitive match on the ATP Tour since his fourth round loss to Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open almost a year ago.

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