October 05, 1981 12:00 PM

by Arthur Ashe with Neil Amdur

In 1979 tennis star Ashe, then 36, had a heart attack that required a bypass operation. He starts this unusually candid story of his life with that crisis, and tells the rest in leisurely flashbacks. Growing up in Richmond, Va., Arthur was small for an athlete, so he gravitated to tennis. Many courts were closed to blacks, and Ashe remembers carefully those who opened doors for him. He learned tennis is a game that demands enormous control; being a successful black in a white society demands control, too. But while this book is a model of restraint, he’s frank about his early romantic encounters. After he won Wimbledon in 1975, there was great pressure for him to champion black causes, but Ashe found “you can’t be No. 1 on a tennis court and spend all your time in the black community.” Why were there not more black tennis stars like him? “When Althea Gibson won the national grass-court title in Forest Hills in 1957 and 1958,” Ashe explains, “there was no reservoir of black talent waiting to walk in…. Blacks had no identification with the sport.” That’s still true. Ashe is one of a kind, and his engaging autobiography is too. (NAL, $ 13.95)

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