The story of Lagos’ ill-fated 1976 Professional Tennis Tournament.

CURATORNET

Ashe-Pele-Okker-and-Borowiak Jeff Borowiak (far left), Arthur Ashe, Pele and Tom Okker at Lagos in 1976. Image courtesy of Tom Okker

It was Monday, February 16, 1976, a sunny day in Lagos, just before noon. The Lagos Lawn Tennis Club terraces were filled with middle class Nigerians and foreign expatriates. Arthur Ashe, current Wimbledon champion, was playing his semi-final match against Jeff Borowiak, a fellow American on centre court. The event was the $60,000 Lagos Tennis Classic tournament, part of the World Championship Tennis (WCT) pro circuit series, and Black Africa’s first professional tennis tournament. Ashe had just won the first set in a tie break. It was a game apiece in the second set and Ashe was about to serve. As he threw the tennis ball into the air, five men marched on to the court via the players’ entrance.

The spectators watched as the men approached Ashe. One of the…

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