Vital Stats: One Wimbledon, one Australian Open title, one US Open title and once an AO finalist (as a pro)
Arthur Ashe is best known for fighting apartheid and for changing how AIDS was perceived even as it claimed his life. Many still call him the greatest ambassador the sport ever had.
If there’s any downside to his advocacy work, it’s that it gets more attention than his numerous merits as a player. Going into the 1975 Wimbledon final,he’d already won a couple of grass court majors in New York and Australia, but was considered a heavy underdog against the proto-power baseliner Jimmy Connors, winner of three major titlesthe previous year. However, the thoughtful Ashe played the quintessential tactical match, employing service placement, chipped returns and off-speed groundstrokes to drive his younger, stronger opponent mad.
Though Connors would spend the next two decades building his reputation as an all-time great and tireless competitor, Ashe shattered his image of invincibility, while furthering his own as a champion. In doing so, he achieved a broader platform for his later fights against racism and fear of HIV/AIDS.