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Arthur Ashe Tennis Star, Great Humanitarian And My Friend By Sigrid Draper

Photo by @arthurasheofficial via Instagram.

 

I didn’t know who Arthur Ashe was. I didn’t really think much about TENNIS until I met Judge Robert J. Kelleher who was instrumental in bringing in “Open Tennis.” [Ed Note: He was The FATHER of OPEN TENNIS.  L.J.]

 

I was impressed with the fact that Judge Kelleher was a U.S. District Judge never dreaming the impact he would have on the game of tennis! (Though A lifelong Ranked Player)

 

I was soon to learn of his importance not only as a visionary for tennis but that he knew everyone that ever played the game!

 

Enter, Arthur Ashe. The first time we met, it was at Judge Kelleher’s home. He was the guest of honor and I expected a giant of a man with an ego to match!

 

Photo by @arthurasheofficial via Instagram.

Was I surprised to see a man of slight build, wearing glasses and a killer smile. I was Introduced as Sigrid Draper, he immediately called me “Sigi”. A name, incidentally, I abhorred and only my Mother was allowed to call me that. I let it go. (For Sigrid To let It go…. is saying A lot)

 

During dinner, I learned more about Arthur Ashe. It was not his celebrity that impressed me but rather the incredible human being he was. His demeanor was soft, gentle, understanding and compassionate.

 

I learned that when Judge Kelleher’s son was deployed in Vietnam Nam, he was willing to drop off a care package to him. He had been invited to play tennis with some Brass over there and this was the least he could do for his Captain! [the Judge was also the Davis Cup captain]…. Arthur was Wading through water to get there, to Arthur it was no big deal. It was what you do for a friend.

 

This is a side of this Tennis player not many were privileged to witness. His thoughtfulness, his consideration of others, his understanding of the challenges that life brings to the table, never wavered.

 

He was a gentle man, a thoughtful man, a caring man, a complicated man, wise beyond his years who overcame the prejudices that few of us understand. And, yes, he was a great tennis player who passed away too soon!

 

He was also a stubborn man. After many years of knowing him, I finally had the courage to tell him that only MY MOTHER called me “Sigi”. Smiling he informed me that he was in GOOD COMPANY. He called me that until he died!

 

An affection that I now appreciate from a man who was bigger than life who chose me to be his friend.

 

 

Lovey’s Remarks:

Sigrid sharing this gem of a story with 10sBalls is a gift beyond imagination.

Arthur was playing with wooden rackets. Eyeglasses. Basic shoes of the day which were canvas usually and he moved like a combo of a cat and a gazelle. I’d love to have seen him play Novak or Roger or Rafa.

As Sigrid says she met them all. She and the Judge made all the rounds for tennis globally for over a quarter of a century. Lucky two for sure.

 

Hopefully Dear Sigrid will share more with our readers. Thank you!

 

This is BLACK History month in America.

Photo by @arthurasheofficial via Instagram.

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