MaliVai Washington began playing tennis at the age of 5 after being introduced to the sport by his father. He won his first title at 8 years of age. MaliVai attended the University of Michigan where he became a two time all American and finished his sophomore year ranked as the NCAA #1 tennis player in the nation.
In 1989 at the age of 20, MaliVai decided to forego his final two years at Michigan to become a professional. He was named the ATP rookie of the year in 1990. Over a career that spanned 10 years, he won 4 career titles while reaching a total of 13 finals. He reached a career high #11 in the world in singles in 1992, 1993 and 1996. MaliVai had career singles wins over Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Michael Chang, Gustavo Kuertan and Ivan Lendl to name a few. In 1996 he reached the Wimbledon Championships final, becoming the first African American man to reach a grand slam singles final since tennis great Arthur Ashe won Wimbledon in 1975.
The two remain the only African American men to achieve this feat. MaliVai was a member of the 1996 United States Olympic Team and United States Davis Cup Teams in 1993, 1996 and 1997. He suffered a knee injury during his final Davis Cup appearance against Gustavo Kuertan in Brazil in February 1997. Following two knee surgeries, MaliVai retired in November 1999. In 1994 he created the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation (www.malwashington.com) to introduce tennis to at risk youth.
In 1997 the foundation expanded and soon would include after school homework assistance and life skills programs. The complimenting programs are used as a platform to get youth to focus more on education, positive behavior, life skills and success. On May 16, 2008 the Foundation achieved its most ambitious goal and opened the MaliVai Washington Youth Center in Jacksonville which includes a 9200 sq ft academic building and 11 tennis courts to serve the youth and surrounding community. 2015 marks the 20th year of programming in Jacksonville, Florida.