Quest to find the next Arthur Ashe

The Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre will be officially reopened in White City Jabavu, Soweto, on Saturday as a permanent legacy of the first black man to win the Wimbledon Open and gain the No 1 ranking in world tennis.

The Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre will be officially reopened in White City Jabavu, Soweto, on Saturday as a permanent legacy of the first black man to win the Wimbledon Open and gain the No 1 ranking in world tennis.

The dedication ceremony will be performed by Ashe's widow, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, an award-winning photographer who is making the trip from New York especially for the event.

The tennis centre was erected 30 years ago but fell into disrepair. During the past two years it has been rebuilt for R4,5m.

Of this amount, R3,5 million was made available by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF) and R1 million by the Gauteng provincial government.

In addition, the Johannesburg Metropolitan Council has undertaken to appoint a full-time on-site caretaker and provide the necessary maintenance and security for the centre that includes total perimeter fencing.

There has been total commitment to the project from Barbara Creecy, MEC for sport, arts, culture and recreation, the NLDTF through the Sport and Recreation Distributing Agency, and councillor Amos Masondo, executive mayor of the City of Johannesburg.

In 1963, Ashe became the first African-American to be selected to play for the United States tennis team in the Davis Cup. In 1968 he became the first black male to win the US Open and captured the Wimbledon singles title in 1975.

Ashe underwent heart surgery in 1983 when he received contaminated blood that resulted in him being later found to be HIV positive. Ten years later, on February 6 1993, he died from Aids at the age of 49.

Ian Smith, chief executive of the SA Tennis Association, said the ultimate goal of the new tennis academy "is for Soweto to produce its own Arthur Ashe". - Sowetan

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