July 5, 1975: Arthur Ashe is crowned first black king of Wimbledon

Arthur Ashe defied overwhelming odds to beat favourite and bitter rival Jimmy Connors to become the first black man to win Wimbledon on this day in 1975.

On this day in 1975, US tennis star Arthur Ashe became the first black man to win the Wimbledon singles' title.

Although he remains the only black man to have tasted singles victory in SW19, the colour of his skin was the least surprising aspect of the day.

[June 24, 2010: Isner and Mahut serve up the longest tennis match ever at a weary Wimbledon]

Ashe's victory came right out of the blue. No one saw it coming. Even some of his friends stayed away from Centre Court for fear of witnessing a massacre.

Their fears were well placed.

It had been five years since the last of Ashe's two previous Grand Slam single titles, and many suspect that his best days were behind him.

It seemed fair to assume the American was drifting off into retirement. At 31, he was becoming increasingly more involved with his off-court work, namely as one of the founders of the Association of Tennis Professionals and as a political activist.

Across the net stood a fellow American - the great Jimmy Connors. He was nine years younger than his opponent and had never lost to him.

The youngster had lost just four out of the 103 matches he played in 1974, picking up three of the four Grand Slams on offer.

Prior to his meeting with Ashe in the Wimbledon final, the bookies had priced his defence of the crown at a less-than-tantalising 2/11. It seemed a fair price - he had yet let to lose a set.

But this more than David versus Goliath - there was some serious niggle between the two men.

Earlier in the year, the United States had lost a Davis Cup tie to Mexico on home soil. Ashe was part of that painful defeat, but Connors - the world's top ranked player - was conspicuously absent. He was taking part in an exhibition match in Las Vegas - and being paid very handsomely for his services. 

Ashe described this as “seemingly unpatriotic”; Connors didn't see it that way. Just days before the Wimbledon final, he filed for libel, demanding millions in damages.

Ashe's riposte was inspired. His Wimbledon triumph is remember as a victory of brain over brawn, and the most brilliant mind-game of the day was deployed before the finalists had even stepped on court. The underdog simply chose to saunter out robed in his navy Davis Cup tracksuit.

Jimmy Connors and Arthur Ashe before their final. Ashe wore the US Davis Cup tracksuit - Connors had opted not to join the team.

The message could not of been clearer. It was a simple, unspoken: "Where's yours?"

Connors later admitted that the stunt had thrown him off balance and that he had seethed through the preliminaries.

But he soon had more pressing problems to address.

[July 3, 1925: Sport's first female superstar rewrites the rules on Centre Court]

When it came to facing Connors, most opponents attempted to fight fire with fire - and the vast majority came off horribly burnt.

Ashe - a big hitter - was expected to suffer the same fate. But in the face of the inferno, he reached for the water bucket, deciding to completely abandon his natural style of play.

The acclaimed British tennis writer Richard Evans would go on to compare Ashe's sudden transformation to "watching a fast bowler go out and bowl leg spin".

That he could not only adapt but actually thrive amazed everyone - not least poor Jimmy Connors.

He had expected an arm wrestle but found himself being pulled from corner to corner, net to the baseline, dealing with a storm of sliced and diced shots.

Before he knew what had hit him, Connors had lost his first set of the tournament - and he had lost it 6-1.

At 3-0 down in the second, the predicted massacre was going the wrong way. A spectator attempted to stop the rot by shouting: "Come on, Connors!" The great champ turned to this secondary tormentor and yelled: "I'm trying for Chrissakes, I'm trying!"

At two sets down, Connors finally began to read Ashe's 'new' style. He clinch the third set and then went 3-0 up in the fourth set.

But Ashe still had something in his box of tricks. He decided it was time to revert back to type, surprising Connors with a series of big shots to seal a 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 that shocked the sporting world.

Ambush complete, the two equally shocked men shared a silent handshake over the net. "What could I say?" explained Ashe later. Quite.

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