When I reached a career high singles ranking of number 17 in the world, no one was more surprised than Arthur Ashe. Arthur, a family friend knew that as a child I had no interest in tennis; yet there I was playing in the US Open, Wimbledon and other WTA Tour events around the globe.
A French Open tradition, Arthur would take the few other black women pros and me out for fried chicken and honey at a soul food joint near the Moulin Rouge in Paris. Those dinners with him were always entertaining and are some of my fondest memories with Arthur.
One US Open after Arthur’s untimely death, I asked his wife, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, if she needed help with the Ashe AIDS fund-raising efforts at the US Open. The answer was a resounding YES!
The 2010 US Open marks the 16th year I’ve managed the Arthur Ashe Endowment for the Defeat of AIDS US Open fund-raising booth! It has truly been a labor of love. Who knew we’d still be here in the fight against AIDS?
So far at the booth we’ve raised a million dollars by selling AAEDA branded merchandise and through our important silent auction. This year marks an exciting change as we launch the on-line expansion of the auction http://endowment.arthurashe.org/ . Now friends and tennis collectors around the world can bid on memorabilia autographed by the biggest names in the game while supporting the AAEDA. Roger Federer, Venus Williams, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic as well as other top stars and tennis legends such as Billie Jean King, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova are all a part of this year’s auction.
Arthur Ashe said, “We want to be able to look back and say to all concerned, that we did what we had to do, when we had to do it, and with all the resources required.”
Even if you don’t get out to the US Open this year you can support the AAEDA by simply logging on and bidding for one of a kind auction items. If you are going to the2010 US Open, be sure to stop by the Ashe Endowment booth to support the cause and say hello.
Each year I proclaim that I hope I will not be back again next year because that would mean the fight against AIDS is over. I’ve made that statement 15 years in a row– I hope I won’t have to state it too many more times! Arthur and AAEDA deserve our full support.
LESLIE ALLEN, an honor graduate of University of Southern California, is a NCAA and WTA champion. A 10-year WTA Tour competitor she achieved a singles world ranking of #17. Allen made history in 1981 by capturing the singles title at the Avon Championships of Detroit, becoming the first African American woman to win a major pro tournament since Althea Gibson’s 1957 US Open victory. Allen won a combined 9 singles and doubles WTA Tour titles and was a French Open mixed doubles finalist.
Off court Allen has worn many hats in the tennis arena; including representing today’s Top 20 players on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Board, a TV commentator, a winning Division I college Women’s Varsity Head coach (Fordham University) and high school varsity boys and girls (Riverdale Country Day) head coach, a WTA tournament director and corporate executive.
In 2002 she founded the Leslie Allen Foundation (LAF). Their trademark Win 4 Life (W4L) program gives youth of diverse backgrounds insights to the 100+ careers behind the scene in pro tennis, helps them develop the life skills needed to be a success on and off court, and improves their fitness through tennis. The LAF motto is “Tennis is more than just hitting a ball.” W4L programs have impacted youth from NY, NJ, VT, SC, CA, MA, TX & FL.
Allen is proof positive that “Tennis is more than just hitting a ball”, she currently resides in NYC with her 15 year old daughter Rachel.