adapts so well that he even got to liking the Army this summer when he had to
serve six weeks at ROTC camp. Typically, he volunteered for KP and other odious
tasks so that he could not be accused of slacking. "He's worried about the
Cassius Clay thing," Pancho Gonzalez says. Ashe finished second in his
platoon in overall achievement and will be inducted into active service for two
years in February as a second lieutenant in the adjutant general's corps. The
AG is sort of a typewriter infantry—which suggests that the Army probably
intends to let him play tennis when possible and otherwise show off for them as
a symbol, an image and the American Dream in modern Army green. "I don't
know how the Army, the two years, will affect Arthur's tennis career,"
Gonzalez says, "but I know this. He is at peace in his mind. He won't duck
a thing, and he won't let anybody down."
Ashe himself is
fully aware of the special responsibilities that weigh upon him. "You never
forget that you are a Negro, and you certainly can't in my case," he says.
"The other week when I played on Long Island I went the whole time and did
not see—did not see—a single other Negro. That's except for the waiters and the
locker-room attendants. And you can bet I always get good treatment in the
unusual for me to go a month without a date. Of course, wherever I go there are
usually Negroes who look me up. But that can be difficult. I try to be nice,
but I'm fickle, I'm choosy no matter what your race happens to be. And however
well-meaning these people are I just can't embrace them because we happen to be
the only two lumps of coal in the snowbank.
"For me, it's
a phony world." He stopped to consider that. "No, that's not fair.
That's wrong. It isn't a phony world. It's an abnormal world I live in. I don't
belong anywhere. It's like I'm floating down the middle. I'm never quite sure
where I am. I guess Charlie is my best friend, but I never felt that we were
really as close as we should be. It's simply that he's white and I'm Negro. I
joined a Negro fraternity at UCLA. You know, I felt I had to at least make the
effort. But I was never really part of it—our interests were so different. It's
just this: no matter how you happen to look at it, the two things—tennis and a
Negro social life—are mutually exclusive."
In many ways
being a Negro serves to accentuate the nomadic, lonely life of the tennis
circuit. "I'd like to get married now. I really would," he sheepishly
admits. A year ago the idea repelled Ashe, but most of his tennis
contemporaries are married and it seems to be getting to him. "It'd be nice
to have someone. I mean, the last thing I am is a loner. I'm a real extrovert
around people I know. I have to have noise. I carry a radio around all the
"strictly on one of his crazy impulses," according to Pasarell, Ashe
got himself engaged. The memory makes him more sheepish. It made all the
columns before Ashe and his girl decided against it.
"But I do get
lonely," he says, "and it does bother me that I am in this predicament.
But I don't dwell on it, because I know it will resolve itself. If I valued
peace of mind or security more than tennis I could get off the tightrope now,
and I will someday. Then, things being the way they are, I'll fall back onto
the Negro side."
Before that (and
after the Army) it is probable—though not yet settled in his mind—that he will
turn pro. To be a prime asset, however, he must first win one of the big
ones—Wimbledon or Forest Hills—or be the decisive factor in a Davis Cup
challenge. Ashe's game is now at a level where all of this is quite possible.
Last year, after he upset Roy Emerson in the quarter-finals at Forest Hills, he
patiently tried to caution the press. "I told them one win, one match is
insignificant. What is important is to establish a trend of winning. Well,"
Ashe says, "I've done that now." He has won eight tournaments since
then, one in the Caribbean, three in the U.S. and four in Australia—despite
thoughts of Bella and despite the fact that he went water skiing the whole day
before the finals of another tournament ("boating," he told Captain
MacCall). After Forest Hills, Ashe may well pass Dennis Ralston and become the
No. 1 U.S. player. He should be ranked no lower than fifth in the world.
The pros are
already drooling. Not only does he have the big, exciting game, but as the
first Negro pro—apparently Ashe is forever doomed to being identified as the
first Negro something-or-other—he has special drawing quality. He is quite
cognizant of the potential of this reverse racism. "Arthur has,"
Charity says, "a very keen, uh, let us say, marketing sense."
Ashe is already
on a retainer to promote Coca-Cola and has been hired by Philip Morris
Incorporated to work in its Clark Gum and American Safety Razor divisions.
"It's against the code for me to push cigarettes here," he reports,
"but see me if we ever go past the three-mile limit together, and I'll tell
you all about them." He makes $9,000 a year in "expenses" as a
member of the U.S. cup team. The pros will have to go high for him.