Arthur Ashe Profile: Thai-Son Kwiatkowski
We recently sat down with Vietnamese-American tennis player (and friend of the brand) Thai-Son Kwiatkowski, who, in 2017, won the NCAA Men’s Singles Championship for the University of Virginia — not far from where Arthur Ashe grew up in (then-segregated) Richmond. Keep scrolling to read the interview.
Arthur Ashe: What does the name Arthur Ashe mean to you?
Thai-Son Kwiatkowski: To me, Arthur Ashe was a model of rectitude. He always held himself to the highest possible character, unwilling to bend or break to anything that went against his principles. Very few tennis players are able to transcend the tennis court and become more than just a “player”. Ashe certainly did that.
AA: What are your off-court achievements? Where do you find validation outside of tennis?
TK: I find achievement in having a balanced life away from tennis: being a good community member, brother, son, and friend. When these relationships in my life are strong and healthy, I’m happy and “validated.” It’s important to me that I am someone you can rely on. When people I care about have challenges or difficulties in life, I want them to feel like they can come to me for help and support.
AA: How has the tennis community helped you become a better player and person?
TK: Tennis can teach you many positive things: how to solve problems on your own and the value of hard work are among them. However, I also think, in general, competitive tennis is a very selfish and individualistic sport. Being aware of that and doing my best to not fall into that mindset has helped me become a better person. College tennis was huge for me to learn that. Going on a journey with a team is so much more gratifying than achieving success alone.
AA: What’s your favorite piece from the Arthur Ashe collection?
TK: The Champions Warm-Up jacket is my favorite piece. It is so iconic. The picture of Ashe wearing it when holding the Wimbledon trophy might be one of the most recognizable tennis pictures in history.
AA: How has tennis affected your personal life? How has it made it better?
TK: I’ve always been quite anxious and uptight when it comes to competing. One quote that a coach told me that helps manage these emotions is “discipline leads to freedom.” To me, that means as long as you can look yourself in the mirror, and know that you did everything you could to prepare for this moment, then you can have the freedom to compete freely with no regrets, and only then can you be really satisfied and proud of your work. I think this relates to life really well. We can only control so much in our day-to-day lives, but if we do our best to control what we can, we can let everything else go a little bit easier and accept the results of whatever situation we find ourselves in.
AA: How does Arthur Ashe’s legacy speak to you personally?
TK: Unfortunately, we are living in a time that is equally as divisive — if not more so — than when Ashe won his first US Open in 1968. For me, what made Ashe transcend sports was his activism and willingness to speak out. But also the way he went about it, guiding discourse that was thoughtful-yet-heated but always respectful. If there is anything about his legacy that is important today, it is for everyone — not just top athletes — to follow in his footsteps in bringing light to the challenges and issues facing us today.
Click here to shop the styles from the collection at arthurashe.com.