Arthur Ashe: A Life

Raymond Arsenault. Simon & Schuster, $40 (796p) ISBN 978-1-4391-8904-7
The first black superstar in men’s tennis makes a significant mark off the court in this inspiring but staid biography. Historian Arsenault (Freedom Riders) follows Ashe’s career through epochal shifts in tennis and society as Ashe practiced on segregated courts in Virginia in the 1950s, matured as the sport opened fully to African-Americans in the 1960s, then became an antiapartheid activist and integrated the South African Open in 1973 to acclaim, but also complaints that he should have boycotted it instead. He also navigated tennis’s transition from amateur pastime to big-money, big-ego spectacle, helping to found a players’ union but mourning the erosion of the sport’s genteel manners, which he stoutly upheld. Ashe even made his untimely death from AIDS serve a purpose by raising awareness of the disease. Arsenault’s narrative is well-researched and exciting in a few on-court showdowns and political confrontations, but for most of its great length Ashe is such an unflagging paragon of sportsmanship and social responsibility that he comes across as rather bland. It’s only with the appearance of Jimmy Connors, whom Ashe beat for the Wimbledon title, and John McEnroe, whom he coached on the Davis Cup team, that drama erupts as the two foul-mouthed, tantrum-throwing divas ruffle Ashe’s decorum. Readers will find his saga admirable, but not very taut. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/28/2018
Release date: 08/21/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-5082-6096-7
Paperback - 784 pages - 978-1-4391-8905-4
Compact Disc - 978-1-5082-6485-9
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