Tennis center reopens following two-year renovation

Updated: March 31, 2007, 7:03 PM ET
Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The tennis center in Soweto founded by Arthur Ashe 30 years ago was reopened by his widow, Jeanne Ashe, on Saturday after a two-year, $620,000 renovation.

Ashe and former tennis promoter Owen Williams combined to complete the center in 1977 in Jabavu, but it was never maintained and fell into disrepair.

The goal of the new Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre "is for Soweto to produce its own Arthur Ashe," said Ian Smith, CEO of the South African Tennis Association. Ashe was the first black man to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

During the dedication ceremony, Jeanne Ashe said her husband had started the center as "one small beacon of light amid the darkness and far-reaching shadows of apartheid."

"Fourteen years after Arthur's death the reopening of this center is probably seen as important at a local and national level, but I can assure you it is a victory whose context is truly international," she said. "It is a victory for people of all nations."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press