Interview of Marty Riessen
Interviewed because of connection to tennis player Arthur Ashe. He and Ashe were members of the US Davis Cup together, and Riessen was a player in 1981 when Ashe was Davis Cup captain. Riessen and Ashe also co-founded Players Enterprise Incorpoated in October 1969, the Association of Tennis Professionals in 1972, and won the doubles title at the 1971 French Open.
- Purpose Served: An Oral History of the Exemplary Life of Arthur Ashe, 1943-1993
- African American HistorySports
- Biographical Note:
- Interviewed because of connection to tennis player Arthur Ashe. He and Ashe were members of the US Davis Cup together, and Riessen was a player in 1981 when Ashe was Davis Cup captain. Riessen and Ashe also co-founded Players Enterprise Incorpoated in October 1969, the Association of Tennis Professionals in 1972, and won the doubles title at the 1971 French Open.
- Riessen, Marty
- Persons Present:
- Riessen and Nwonye.
- Place Conducted:
- The interview was conducted using the Zoom video conferencing platform.
- Supporting Documents:
- Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.
- Interviewer Background and Preparation:
- The interview was conducted by Chinyere Nwonye, an interviewer for the Arthur Ashe Oral History project as part of the UCLA Arthur Ashe Legacy Center. Chinyere is a graduate of UCLA with a background in neuroscience and African American Studies. The interviewer prepared for the interview by reading Arthur Ashe’s Advantage Ashe; Arthur Ashe and Neil Amdur’s Off the Court; Arthur Ashe and Arnold Rampersad’s Days of Grace: A Memoir; Raymond Arsenault’s Arthur Ashe: A Life; and various archival articles from the Los Angeles Times and Daily Bruin. Additionally, the interviewer read sections of Marty Riessen and Richard Evans’ book Match Point in which Ashe is referenced. For oral history methodology she read select chapters of Don Ritchie’s Doing Oral History; Valerie Yow’s Recording Oral History: A Guide for the Humanities and Social Sciences; Robert Weiss’ Learning from Strangers; and she watched several oral histories from the Library of Congress. She also watched HBO’s Arthur Ashe: Citizen of the World and BBC’s Arthur Ashe: More than a Champion.
- Processing of Interview:
- The interviewer prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview. The interviewee was given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the content.
- 3.75 hrs
- Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
- Series Statement:
- Purpose Served: An Oral History of the Exemplary Life of Arthur Ashe, 1943-1993 is an initiative of the Arthur Ashe Legacy Fund (AALF) at UCLA and is funded by AALF and by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. By launching an oral history project to document and capture the firsthand recollections of Ashe’s colleagues, associates, family, and friends, UCLA was fulfilling its commitment to the Arthur Ashe Learning Center to document and disseminate the considerable impact of one of its most significant graduates. In his memoir Days of Grace Arthur Ashe stated, "I don't want to be remembered for my tennis accomplishments.” Although this series provides a comprehensive account of Ashe’s considerable accomplishments as a tennis player, it also offers a substantial number of first-person accounts of historical moments and stories beyond the scope of tennis. Ashe’s ascent in the tennis world coincided with many important developments in the sport: the onset of the Open Era, the shift from a mostly “country club” sport to the public arena, the commercialization of tennis, and the rise of the celebrity athlete. But his life also intersected with a number of significant milestone in the second half of the twentieth century, including the civil rights and women’s movements, the Vietnam War, the fall of apartheid in South Africa, and the AIDS/HIV crisis. In their reflections on Ashe’s work and activism, participants in this series share stories of his engagement with these crucial moments in U.S. history. Finally, the series also contains information about segregation; student life at UCLA in the 1960s; ROTC; West Point; Black life in Richmond, Virginia and St. Louis, Missouri; the work of TransAfrica and Artists and Athletes against Apartheid; and the relatively unknown histories of the American Tennis Association and Dr. Robert Walter Johnson’s Summer Tennis Camp. Interviewees were sought across the country and internationally, reflecting Ashe’s broad swath of associates and his status as a prominent athlete and a respected public intellectual. Although the series reflects his entire life, special attention was given to locating childhood friends, military associates, and fellow students in St. Louis and at UCLA. Participants who could speak of his devotion to support youth in the sport and his activism were also included in this series. The series commenced months before the COVID-19 pandemic, so many of the initial interviews align with traditional oral history methodology in being conducted in person. After stay-at-home orders were initiated across the country in March of 2020, interviews were conducted via the Zoom video conferencing platform. Many of these sessions were preserved on video recordings as well as audio recordings.
Marty Riessen was born in Hinsdale, Illinois on December 4, 1941 – Begins playing tennis at five, coached by his father – Junior summer circuit – Most likely meets Arthur Ashe at National Junior Championship in Kalamazoo, Michigan (1957-59) – Relationship with Ashe through shared representation and collaboration to form Players Enterprise Incorporation (PEI) – Ashe’s time as Davis Cup captain – The Open Era beginning in 1968 – Ashe approached by Yannick Noah’s uncle in a hotel – Touring French West Africa with Ashe, Charlie Pasarell, and Tom Okker – Ashe’s 1968 U.S. Open win – Professionalization of tennis (Open Era) between 1968-9 – Founding the Association of Tennis Professionals with Ashe and other players in 1972 – ATP Wimbledon boycott in 1973 – Ashe’s 1975 Wimbledon win.
Junior circuit and shifting college trends after the Open Era – Diversity in the juniors – Davis Cup team in 1959 and 1961 and begins attending Northwestern University in 1960 – Shifts in tennis playing and spectatorship – College tennis with Ashe – 1963 and 1966 Davis Cup team with Ashe – 1963 Davis Cup team in Australia during President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and flown to Canberra, Australia for his funeral services – Series of unfortunate events during 1965-66 Davis Cup team trip to Australia – Tennis personalities – Ashe’s personality – Players Enterprise Corporation (PEI) and Ashe’s reduced interest after his heart attacks in 1979 and 1980 – Winning French Open with Ashe in 1971 – Using Ashe’s apartment in New York along with Richard Evans for their book, Match Point – Ashe helps Riessen’s girlfriend at the Westbury Hotel in 1975 – The night Ashe learns he has HIV – Last time seeing Ashe at a National Junior Tennis League event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Impact of relationship with Ashe.