Former Wimbledon finalist MaliVai Washington, the last African American to reach a Grand Slam final on the men's side, says he was inspired by the late tennis legend Arthur Ashe to help launch his foundation, which works with underprivileged urban kids.
MaliVai Washington says he was inspired by Arthur Ashe
The MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation is an after-school and summer youth development program in Jacksonville's Urban Core that promotes academic achievement and positive life skills.
Speaking to CNN Sports, Washington says, "Oftentimes, kids are coming from very challenging economic situations. But that can’t ever be their excuse for lack of success or lack of education or incarceration, because the Foundation — that is your advantage."
Washington also recalled how an encounter with Ashe showed him the importance of education and how the late American legend has inspired him. "I remember telling him (Ashe) that I was I was thinking about turning pro after my sophomore year…and this look kind of came on its his face, like ‘I don’t know whether you should do that.’ But I don’t think it was necessarily a reflection on me and my tennis, but more reflection about how much he valued education.
I think what I what I took from Arthur over the years is, as human beings and certainly as athletes who play on an international level, we have a responsibility to do more than just hit a tennis ball. And I’m going to paraphrase here in one of his books, he said: ‘If I’m just remembered as a tennis player, I failed.
I didn’t do I didn’t do my job.’ That one line has always stuck with me and I’ve tried to in some ways live by that”. MaliVai Washington won four ATP titles and achieved a career best ranking of No.
11 in the world in 1992. He reached the finals at Wimbledon in 1996. The MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation has been providing programs in Jacksonville, Florida for more than two decades and in 2008, the MaliVai Washington Youth Center was opened.
Arthur Ashe was the first black player selected to the United States Davis Cup team and the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open.