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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Simona Halep ‘Happy To Be Back’ Amid Uncertainty Over US Open Plans

The Romanian still has reservations about her future plans after taking her first international flight in five months.

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World No.2 Simona Halep admits the prospect of travelling from Europe to America will be ‘mentally tough’ as she ponders whether or not to play at the US Open.

 

The reigning Wimbledon champion is set to return to competitive tennis in the Czech Republic where she will play her first tournament in five months at the Prague Open. Halep was originally due to make her return in Palermo but withdrew from the event due to ‘travelling anxiety’ despite being assured she wouldn’t have to go through quarantine. Speculation has mounted in recent weeks about if the Romanian would travel to the US Open later this year with the 28-year-old confirming she will make her final decision after Prague.

“I haven’t made the final decision yet,” AFP quoted Halep as telling reporters during a virtual press conference on Sunday.
“The travelling from Europe is a little bit tough with changing flights — we don’t have straight flights — so it’s going to be tough for me personally, mentally,” she told a video conference.
“I don’t want to put myself into that stress. As I said I haven’t decided yet, but the conditions are tough for me at this moment.”

Three members of the top 10 on the women’s Tour have already pulled out of the New York major, which will be played behind closed doors for the first time in history. Ash Barty, Kiki Bertens and Elina Svitolina have all withdrawn from the major due to concerns. In comparison, only one member of the top 10 on the men’s Tour, Rafael Nadal, has withdrawn specifically related to COVID-19 concerns.

Prague is Halep’s first international trip after being in lockdown in Romania since February. A country which reported 1,378 new coronavirus cases and 50 new related deaths on Friday in what was their highest 24-hour figure since the pandemic began.

“I’m a bit nervous but things are very controlled here and very safe so I feel safe,” she said upon arrival in the Czech capital.
“I’m happy to be back, I’m happy to be healthy.”

It will be double duty for Halep in Prague. Besides being the top seed in the singles draw, she will also be playing the doubles alongside local favourite Barbora Strycova. Who reached the semi-final of Wimbledon last year before losing to Serena Williams. It is the first time ever the two are playing alongside each other on the Tour.

“I’m sure we will have fun. I’m sure that she will understand if I miss easy balls at the net, and I hope we’ll enjoy it.” Halep commented on their collaboration.

Halep will start her singles campaign against Slovenia’s Polona Hercog.

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REPORT: Madrid Open To Be Axed Amid COVID-19 Concerns In Latest Setback For Tennis

Hopes of Spain holding their top tennis event in 2020 are over.

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The world of tennis is set to suffer another severe blow with multiple media sources confirming that organisers of Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament will officially cancel their event on Tuesday. 

 

The Mutua Madrid Open will be removed from the 2020 calendar following a meeting involving tournament owner Iron Tiriac. Recently doubts have been cast on the event after local health officials called for it to be suspended due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Although the final decision was up to Tiriac and his team. It had been due to take place between September 12 to 20, following the conclusion of the US Open. 

“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September,” tournament director Feliciano Lopez told L’Equipe over the weekend. 

Spain has seen their rate of COVID-19 cases rapidly rise since the country ended its lockdown. According to El Pais, the number of cases recorded within 24 hours is eight times the amount compared to 40 days ago. Rising from 334 (June 20) to 2,789 (between July 29 and 30). On Friday July 31st there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.

Held at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open is a key event for both men and women. It is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. Last year each of the singles champions took home €1,202,520 in prize money. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.

The demise of Madrid this year is another setback for what is becoming a rapidly thinning 2020 tennis calendar. Within the past two weeks China has confirmed that they will not be hosting any tournaments this year, Japan’s scrapped it’s premier women’s event and the Italian Open has been advised to not allow any fans to their event this year. 

As a result of the latest development, only two WTA clay-court events will take place after the US Open leading up to Roland Garros. They are both set to get underway on September 21st in Rome and Strasbourg. As for the men, Rome will be their only point of call. 

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Serena Williams leads a high-quality line-up in Lexington

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Twenty-three time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams will be the top seed at the inaugural edition of the Lexington Open from 10th August 2020 on the same week as the Prague Open. The Lexington Open will be the first US tournament of the US hard court season, which will continue with the Western and Southern Open and the US Open, which will be held in the same venue at Flushing Meadows in New York. 

 

Serena was very close to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles, but lost four times in a Major final after giving birth to her daughter Olympia. 

The US legend will play her first match since she hepled the US team beat Latvia in the Fed Cup last March in Everett. There Serena beat Jelena Ostapenko but she was defeated by Anastasija Sevastova. 

Williams will lead a star-studded line-up, which features this year’s Australian Open finalist and former Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, Aryna Sabalenka, Sloane Stephens, Johanna Konta, Amanda Anisimova and Yulia Putintseva, Ons Jabeur, Victoria Azarenka, Heather Watson and US rising star Cori Gauff. 

Sabalenka won two consecutive editions of the Wuhan tournament in 2018 and 2019, in Shenzhen in 2019, the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai in 2019 and the Doha final in 2020. 

Stephens won her first Grand Slam title at the US Open in 2017 and reached the final at 2018 Roland Garros. She finished runner-up to Elina Svitolina at the 2018 WTA Finals in Singapore. The US player lost to Canadian teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez in Monterrey in her last WTA Tour match before the pandemic. 

Amanda Anisimova won her maiden WTA title in Bogotà in 2019 in her first professional tour tournament on clay. Last year the young US player beat Simona Halep en route to becoming the youngest semifinalist at the French Open since 2006. This year Amanda lost to Serena Williams in the semifinal in Auckland last January. 

Johanna Konta reached the French Open semifinal and the Rome Final in 2019. The British player enjoyed her best year in 2017, when she won the Miami title and reached the Wimbledon semifinal rising to her best ranking at world number 4. 

The Top seed Open will be the first WTA tournament to be played in the United States since the coronavirus pandemic swept across the United States. The Kentucky tournament will feature a 32-player singles draw and a 16-player doubles field. 

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