Arthur Jr. cannot
remember the last time he got mad, but his grandfather's temper was legend.
"One time he was working up on a house," Mr. Ashe says, "and
another man started giving him orders. My father started coming down off the
building. He was whistling Nearer My God to Thee. He could whistle pretty as a
mockingbird. He had a piece of lumber in his hand, and he just walked up to
that fellow and hit him aside the head—all the time whistling and with the
prettiest smile on his face you ever did see. Then he went back to
Arthur Sr. has
been as diligent as his father was flamboyant. He came to Richmond from
Lincolnton, N.C. to work for $2.50 a week. Now, besides his city park job, he
has his own landscaping business. He has two trucks for that, a car and a
21-foot motorboat, and he has just built a new house out in Louisa County with
virtually nothing but his own two hands.
Arthur Jr. is the
distillation of such conflicting strains. "The most impressive thing is
that he is so able to take things as they are," says Charlie Pasarell, his
best friend, teammate and roommate at UCLA. "He can be absolutely
objective. I think of Arthur as a multiracial person."
quote is Voltaire's," Ashe says. " 'I disapprove of what you say, but I
will defend to the death your right to say it.' " This is hardly a
revelation, for Mr. Ashe reared Arthur with his own favorite homemade homily:
"Respect everyone, whether they respect you or not."
sometimes that I'm too open-minded," Arthur Jr. says. "But then, being
open-minded and strongly convicted just can't go hand in hand, can they? And,
besides, I have opinions on everything. I'm always thinking. I don't care how
tired I am, once I get in bed I can't get to sleep for an hour. There's just so
much to think about. Really, I mean it. Ask me about anything and I'll have an
opinion right on the tip of my tongue."
too much of this intellectual meandering takes place on court. Most players
agree that the best way to beat Ashe is just to hang with him until his
concentration starts to wander or until his booming service begins to falter.
His serve is much the best among the amateurs. It is almost entirely the result
of flowing coordination, since he scatters only 147 pounds over six feet and
looks, when serving, like a bow and arrow. But more often than not the serve
disappears in tandem with the concentration. "He wins or loses every
match," says George Toley, the University of Southern California coach.
"Nobody really beats him in that sense."
Ashe does not
have a stroke that can be rated poor, although his forehand and second serve
are the more vulnerable aspects of his game. At his peak, he cannot be touched.
He slaughtered Pancho Gonzalez 6-0 in Jamaica one day last spring. "And
listen," Gonzalez emphasizes, "I was really trying. I was playing. I
tell you, it was the greatest set of tennis I ever saw played. Yes, including
any of the ones I played." But Ashe's inability to concentrate and his
predilection for experiment hold him back. "I guess," says UCLA's J.D.
Morgan, "that the biggest thing he has going for him is also his biggest
fault—his imagination." Arthur himself is quite in agreement.
Q. They say that
if your serve is going too well you'll take something off it to make it a more
A. Oh sure,
Q. You'll try all
sorts of different things to liven it up?