Ashe Wednesday

Arthur Ashe in 1966 in patriotic colors. Check out the accompanying SI story on the groundbreaking legend here.

And this is my new racquet. It’s not as pretty as Ashe’s old wooden ones, but nor is it completely ugly by today’s standards.

For years I’d been stuck where most recreational players get stuck: the dreading ratings-system number known as 3.5 (though I always had a big serve). This season I’m finally breaking through and hope to reach 4.0, which would be considered more of a club-level proficiency. It came about as a combination of physical and mental breakthroughs. Never doubt the importance of the “inner game of tennis,” the power of meditation, and a good coach.

If you feel like you’re destined to be stuck at 3.5 for life, perhaps the video below can show the way forward. — CC

24 Comments on "Ashe Wednesday"

  1. The stadium at Forest Hills was very Ivy-the current one is not.

  2. AA looks great on this cover. “America’s Finest . . .” and he was.

  3. Orange Fiji | November 4, 2018 at 3:40 pm |

    AA is the last college graduate to win a grand slam tennis tournament.

  4. Cuff Shooter | June 5, 2019 at 6:04 pm |

    Not only was Arthur Ashe a fine sportsman (and an Army veteran himself), but it is well-known that his brother John volunteered to serve a second tour of duty in Vietnam in order to allow Arthur to continue his tennis career uninterrupted. (This may have been mentioned in the SI story, but I was unable to open the link.)

  5. Old School Tie | June 5, 2019 at 6:57 pm |

    Yonex. More for badminton I’d say….

  6. Yep, played Yonex in badminton. This came recommended by a buddy who teaches at the USTA (where the Open is held). Demo’ed four versions and liked that one a lot.

    Everything else is apparently made in China. Yonex is made in Japan and evidently has the most consistency in term of quality control regarding weight fluctuations, etc.

    And it’s blue.

  7. reppupstateny | June 5, 2019 at 11:30 pm |

    Arthur was class all the way. . . “Levels of the Game” by John Mc Phee for some more reading. . .

  8. Edsel Marsdale | June 5, 2019 at 11:47 pm |

    For a reader who’s not at all interested in tennis (or meditation), this piece and the accompanying article:
    were far more interesting than yesterday’s collection of Kamakura pieces.
    I do congratulate W. David Marx on his efforts to make them available to English-speaking readers. I assume they were even more soporific in the original Japanese.

  9. Arthur Ashe’s illness and early death was a tragedy, both personally and for the sport. He was a very elegant player and a true gentleman – much like Rod Laver and Roger Federer. Btw, I still have my Wilson wooden tennis racquets in their original presses.

  10. MacMcConnell | June 6, 2019 at 9:15 am |

    Love Arthur Ashe, but the original Ashe designed racquet was the boron composite Head Competition. While Ashe looks great in the SI cover, it wasn’t long before he got hip.

  11. MacMcConnell | June 6, 2019 at 9:20 am |

    Ashe’s Head racquet is displayed at the Smithsonian.

  12. Charlottesville | June 6, 2019 at 10:57 am |

    Nice piece on fellow Virginian, Arthur Ashe. I fear that the only thing I have in common with his tennis game is a wooden Wilson racket from school days. I discovered it when cleaning out my shed a couple of weeks ago, along with my wooden TA Davis racket and my Olin fiberglass skis from the same era, roughly mid to late 70s.

  13. For tennis players, I recommend Sporting Gentlemen by Digby Baltzell. It has some slow sections, but overall an enjoyable read on the changing culture of our society as illustrated by tennis.

  14. Yonex does have excellent quality control, and are still made in Japan. Older Wilson Pro Staff’s (St. Vincent Models) and the made in Austria Head Prestige Tour series fetch large premiums on ebay.

    Prince still makes racquets, and is a high quality build (as is Technifibre) relative to the big guys.

    Sincerely, Rake (4.5)

  15. Thanks for the book tip, JLH.

  16. MacMcConnell | June 6, 2019 at 1:52 pm |

    That TAD Davis may be worth some cash. Davis racquets were expensive new and beautiful to look at. In HS my tennis friends called the Davis racquets “country club” racquets because all the middle aged women used them. My wife bought one because it was beautiful. Truth is all my friends and I could afford were Wilson Kramers and my preference Dunlap Fort. We couldn’t shake down our parents for expensive racquets.

  17. MacMcConnell | June 6, 2019 at 1:55 pm |

    If my memory serves me, isn’t Prince the first to intro the NORAD antenna size tennis racquet heads?

  18. Charlottesville | June 6, 2019 at 3:07 pm |

    MacMcConnell – I recall that the Davis (with the trademark “TAD” on the butt cap) was quite pricey, compared to my older Wilson, which I may have inherited from my brother. I doubt it improved my mediocre game much, but it looked nice. I think aluminum and fiberglass racquets (which spellcheck wants to change to “rackets”) with oversize heads were starting to take over by then, but the 1970s was still the era of all whites and, in my area, Tretorn tennis shoes. I think that was already fading by the 80s, when bright colors, and bigger logos became more common. The game is faster and no-doubt better now, but at least we looked good back then.

  19. @charlottesville – our club in Maine still requires tennis whites. Our club in VA doesn’t, but rather has a “Woods” tournament each year where wooden racquets are used and tennis whites are required. Fun event!

  20. MacMcConnell | June 6, 2019 at 8:31 pm |

    Yes I miss the whites. The tennis club I worked at decided in 1974 to go color to boost pro shop sales. I always played in white, I still have a pair of mid70s RLPolo tennis shorts. I always laughed when the club’s women would travel to a club that only white was sanctioned, talk about piss and moaning.

    My claim to fame in the tennis world is I brought Borg and Billy Martin fresh towels while they showered. 😉

  21. Charlottesville | June 7, 2019 at 10:47 am |

    Rake — The Woods tournament sounds like fun. I note that Richard Press mentioned Piping Rock today in his column over at the J. Press site. I believe that they also have maintained the strict rule of whites for tennis and croquet, and jacket and tie for the dining room. Unfortunately it is both out of my area and out of my league.

    Mac – Your brush with tennis greatness is much closer than mine. I once attended the US Open as the guest of a client, and watched Venus Williams score a victory from excellent seats. However, I was not invited to the shower afterwards. And congratulations on maintaining your fighting weight. Alas, I fear that my 30″ waist, mid-70s tennis shorts would be a few inches too snug on me these days.

  22. whiskeydent | June 10, 2019 at 7:22 am |

    I tried to play Ashe’s racquet a few times. The sweet spot made a Kramer’s seem big and it torqued like mad, but it was great for producing his two signature shots, the sharp slice serve and semi-slice backhand drive. How he hit all those volleys to beat Connors at the Open I’ll never know.

    My 70’s trajectory was Bancroft wood with a fiberglass laminate, Head Pro aluminum, Yamaha fiberglass, and then the stiffer, less whippy composites to follow. I think the Prince came out when some of the first high-quality composites arrived in the late 70’s-early 80’s. Funny, they were the weapon of choice for guys my age now.

  23. I still play, wearing whites and Tretorns, 2-3 times a week. New racquet, though; I have an old wooden one hanging on the wall of my study. I had a Wilson T3000 when I was a teenager and socks with little feet on them that Jimmy Connors wore.

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