Ashe rose from his hometown's public courts to become the first African-American male to reach prominence in tennis. He won the 1965 intercollegiate singles championship while at University of California at Los Angeles. Denied a visa by South Africa on racial grounds in 1970, Ashe forced the issue, appearing before the United Nations and urging the World Tennis Union to expel South Africa because of its apartheid policy. Noted for his grace, hard-hit topspin, and outstanding backhand, Ashe won the 1968 U.S. Open, the 1970 Australian Open, and the 1975 Wimbledon title. He retired as a player following a 1979 heart attack, but continued to serve as the U.S. Davis Cup captain. In 1992 he announced that he had acquired AIDS from a heart operation years earlier. He remained an active spokesperson on many issues, including race relations and AIDS.
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