Days Of Grace In Pandemic Times

WASHINGTON, April 9, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Twenty-eight years ago this week, Arthur Ashe, Jr., publicly announced he had contracted HIV. While Ashe initially blamed USA Today for forcing him to go public with the news, which he had kept private, he said was relieved that he no longer had to keep his illness secret.

It is believed that Ashe contracted the HIV virus from a series of blood transfusions that he received during his second heart surgery in 1983. It wasn’t until 1988 that Ashe learned with certainty he was HIV positive. He and his wife, photographer and graphic artist Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, had decided to keep his illness a matter of privacy for the sake of their daughter, Camera, who was just two years-old, until he went public with it in 1992.

Following Ashe’s public disclosure of AIDS, he founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS, in which he worked to raise an awareness about the virus. Then, two months before his death in February 1993, Ashe founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health as a means of addressing issues of inadequate health care delivery. Less than a week before his death at age 49, he finished the manuscript for his memoir, Days of Grace, which was published posthumously.

As the global coronavirus pandemic has suspended all tennis play until at least July 13, now is a good time to read Days of Grace, or a couple of others books which focus on the life of Arthur Ashe, Jr.: Levels of the Game by John McPhee, arguably one of the best books ever written about tennis, which focuses on Ashe’s 1968 US Open semifinal match against fellow American Clark Graebner; and Arthur Ashe: A Life, a 2018 biography written by acclaimed civil rights historian Raymond Arsenault, which is a close look at his life that presents much evidence to suggest that he was not only a great player, he was an extraordinary human being.

#GameSetMattek: A few minutes with Bethanie Mattek-Sands

Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States has stayed busy during the coronavirus lockdown, as anyone who follows her on any of her social media platforms can attest. One day, she’s auctioning her Wimbledon towel collection to raise money for charity. Another day, she’s sitting for a haircut given her husband, Justin, in their Phoenix, Arizona, home.

Recently, the WTA asked fans what Mattek-Sands shares in common with Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova? The correct answer is: Both shared a winning doubles partner in Lucie Safarova. Could this be a sign that they should team up?

This week, in a WTA Live chat, Mattek-Sands shared a friendly chat with Pavlyuchenkova and the subject of doubles dominated their conversation.

Tennis Way Back Machine

Tracy Austin ascended to women’s World No. 1 40 years ago this week at age 18. Austin, who would spend 21 weeks at No. 1 and, later, earn induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1992 after winning two majors and 30 titles overall, was the only WTA player outside of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova to reach the top of the rankings during an 11-year plus span. “It was just a wonderful moment to share with my mom …” Austin, 57, now an analyst for Tennis Channel told “She was always by my side, she drove me to practice – she was my biggest supporter. And she knew it was my dream to become No. 1 in the world.”

What they’re saying

In a recent interview with Sky Sports, Belgium’s 23rd-ranked Elise Mertens opened up about what life has been like for her this month while tennis is suspended by the coronavirus lockdown: “Sometimes when I’m on the tour I say ‘I want to go home,’ but now that I’m here I just want to travel again,” she said. “It feels pretty strange not playing because It’s never happened to me before. I mostly take a minimum break of two weeks before starting over again.”

What they’re podcasting

• The Tennis Podcast – This week’s podcast looks back at the earliest Williams sister final showdown, the 1999 Lipton Championships in Miami, and peak Andy Murray versus peak David Ferrer, the 2013 Sony Ericsson Open final in Miami.

• The Racquet Magazine Podcast – This week, Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova shares her philosophy of life and ponders her post-career plans.

What they’re tweeting

The ATP in recognition of World Health Day on April 7

Ana Ivanovic, 2008 French Open singles champion

Karen Khachanov, Russia, ranked No. 15

Pablo Andujar, Spain, ranked No. 53