the tennis channel unveils signature series: arthur ashe at the us open 2014

Tennis Channel will celebrate the illustrious career of tennis pioneer, devoted activist and Hall of Famer Arthur Ashe in Signature Series: Arthur Ashe during the 2014 US Open. The newest edition to the network’s original Signature Series documentary lineup – Ashe’s first authorized television biography – will debut Sunday, August 31, at 11 p.m. ET at the conclusion of Tennis Channel’s US Open coverage. A complete schedule of episode airdates can be found on the channel’s website at www.tennischannel.com/schedule.

Signature Series: Arthur Ashe delves into the brilliant tennis career, passionate activism and untimely death of one of the most respected athletes of all time. In a pantheon with other 20th Century agents of change like Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens and Muhammed Ali. Ashe is remembered as a man who broke color barriers and affected human rights issues. With perhaps nothing more important to him than education and the opportunities it can afford people, of all walks of life, Ashe took a leading role in advancing this cause of using a locker room as a means of promoting the classroom. The dignity and grace with which he led his life, on and off the tennis court and in the face of his own mortality, remain respected around the world.

“Arthur Ashe’s legacy transcends tennis and even sports, and this is a story that simply had to be told,” said Ken Solomon, chairman and CEO, Tennis Channel. “For the first time television audience will experience Arthur in the context of history and learn why he was one of the greatest social leaders our world has seen.”

An eventual World No. 1, Ashe began as an outsider in tennis, an African-American unable to play junior tournaments – or even walk onto the same court with a white opponent – because of racial segregation laws in his home state of Virginia. He went on to lead the University of California Los Angeles’ championship tennis team, and became the first African-American to play for the U.S. Davis Cup team in 1963. This landmart “first” was one of many in a lifetime of firsts for Ashe. He later became the first man to win the US Open in 1968, its inaugural year. In doing so, he also became the first – and to this day only – African-American man to win the singles title at the US Open or the U.S. National Championships, as the tournament was known before the Open Era.

Ashe added to his place in history with championships at the Australian Open in 1970 and Wimbledon in 1975, also firsts for an African-American man. Even today his Wimbledon championship upset of Jimmy Connors is considered a match for the ages. Ashe remains the only black man to win singles championships at the US Open, Wimbledon or the Australian Open. He also, with 1983 French Open winner Yannick Noah of France, became one of only two black men to win a major tennis singles title. He finished his career with 33 titles overall.

This documentary, however, charts the story of not only a Grand Slam champion, but also a lifetime leader, humanitarian, philanthropist and human rights activist who worked with three different U.S. presidents. Known for his character, Ashe’s passionate and tireless leadership translated into many causes – both politically and socially. He protested South African apartheid, championing human rights and serving as a beacon of hope to the people suffering under segregation there. Ashe became such a virtuous example to South Africans that they nicknamed him “Sepo” or “Hope.” After decades in prison, future South African president Nelson Mandela immediately sought a meeting with Ashe upon his release. Ashe was also committed to protesting U.S. crackdowns on Haitian refugees. He was arrested twice while demonstrating his beliefs regarding these issues. Above all Ashe was a fierce advocate of educational empowerment, and gave back to his community throughout his life. Paramount among his achievements may be his role as a founding member of National Junior Tennis and Learning, a non-profit dedicated to helping underprivileged youth through tennis.

“We are humbled to be able to honor Arthur Ashe’s memory in this edition of Signature Series,” said Laura Hockridge, vice president, original programming, Tennis Channel. “His actions as a player have helped to mold the sport as we know it today, and his convictions as an activist continue to inspire people and motivate positive change in the world.”

In 1992, Ashe announced that he had contracted AIDS during a blood transfusion years earlier while receiving treatment after heart surgery. In doing so, he became an early and public face for raising awareness about the disease. Ashe, with his wife Jeannne, helped to bring attention to AIDS by founding the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS, which generated funds for study into treating, curing and preventing the disease, with the eventual goal of finding a cure. He continued to bring light to the plight of AIDS victims by speaking before the U.N. General Assembly, inciting a call to action for delegates to increase funding for research and see the virus as a global issue. At a local level, Ashe also founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health. He designed the institute to address poor health care delivery issues amongst urban minorities. Ashe died in 1993 of AIDS-related pneumonia.

“The greatness of Arthur Ashe was not his tennis. It was the way he carried himself and what he tried to create. He represented so many good ideals and values … and I always believed that America lost a great deal when we lost Arthur Ashe,’ said longtime friend and agent of Arthur Ashe, Donald Dell, in an interview that appears in the documentary.

Spending nine years in the World Top 10, Ashe contributed more to the sport than just great match play and big wins. In response to tennis’ growing popularity and the stalemate of tennis professionals’ earnings, he co-founded the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) with Jack Kramer and others in 1972. The ATP was formed to represent the interests and rights of the men who made their living on the pro tennis circuit. Ashe served as president for two years and went on to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985. Today he is the namesake of the main venue at the US Open, “Arthur Ashe Stadium,” the largest tennis arena in the world. It was Ashe’s dedication to promoting equality and championing human rights – both in his professional and personal life – that keeps him in the hearts and minds of the public.

Ashe’s family, friends and contemporaries have joined together to help Tennis Channel honor the tennis great by speaking about their fondest memories of him on camera. Each was asked to write a personal letter to Ashe from the present, addressing the ways in which his legacy lives and the changes in the world today because of him. Read in “Dear Arthur” segments throughout, the letters form the pillars of the film’s structure. His brother Johnnie Ashe, Ambassador Andrew Young, prize winning sports writer Frank Deford and tennis icon Billie Jean King are among those featured. Other interviewees include contemporaries like all-time great Rod Laver and Cliff Drysdale, and tennis chroniclers Richard Evans and Steve Flink.

Signature Series: Arthur Ashe is a a part of Tennis Channel’s on going Signature Series documentary lineup. Other tennis personalities and subjects have included Rod Laver, Andre Agassi, Vitas Gerulaitis, Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, Rene Lacoste, Bud Collins and the sport’s centuries-old origins.

15th annual arthur ashe essay contest under way

Athur Ashe Essay Contest 2013

The 2013 Arthur Ashe Essay Contest, run by the USTA and their National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) arm, is now under way. Contest participants are asked to answer the following question: “If you could follow in Arthur Ashe’s footsteps and ‘give back’ to tennis, what would you do to give back to the game, and how would it impact others?” The winners will receive a trip to New York City around the time of the U.S. Open.

Details: 2013 Arthur Ashe Essay Contest

(Photo Credit: Ashe Wikipedia)

short balls: arthur ashe hoodie, vintage nike, shoelaces, etc.

Hypebeast shows us these TBG hoodies constructed with two jersey layers (in contrasting colors) and with a screen print on the inside back panel. Besides featuring Arthur Ashe, they’ve also created pieces Crazy Horse and Biko. Cute!

rafaroger-nike-vintage.jpg

Nike keeps up with the vintage shirts for Roger and Rafa‘s off-court appearances. Some love it, some don’t. What’s your take? Tell us. (If you need another look, here’s a white hoodie Roger wore for the Battle of the Surfaces.)

Two more items from Hypebeast…

For your kicks: Check out these shoelaces from Starks Laces.

Adding to my look book: Japanese brand Uniqlo provides my fashion inspiration for the fall.

short balls: african tennis, marat mania, french open tv

Tennis Hooligans: Here’s a fan’s take on attending both the Tennis Channel Open and the Pacific Life Open to see some good tennis stalk Marat Safin. And another one of the Lady Hooligans posted her ode to Marat. Make sure to click on the second YouTube video, to see a goofy clip.

Finding Africa’s next great hope: Jeanne Ashe reopened the South African tennis center named for (and co-founded by) her late husband, Arthur Ashe. The country needs get back on the tennis map; it’s been a little while since Wayne Ferreira retired. (via espn.com)

Self-serving patriotism?: The Russian Fed Cup team added Maria Sharapova to their roster for the first round tie against Spain. She’s never played Fed Cup before, and is likely participating to make herself eligible for the Beijing Olympics. (via espn.com)

Roaming the grounds of Roland Garros: DirecTV announced its plans for the French Open. Like the coverage it provided in partnership with the Tennis Channel for last year’s U.S. Open, DirecTV will “offer multiple live channels from the tournament, as well as a special ‘French Open Mix’ channel that will feature all live feeds.” (via Multichannel News)

More info about the red-striped 2007 Roland Garros poster here.

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