Tennis legend Rosie Casals introduce the game to Coachella Valley kids
Palm Springs Desert Sun
Hall of Famer Rosie Casals has made a second career out of building youth tennis, particularly within her Coachella Valley community, and Saturday’s event may be among her biggest efforts yet.
Casals provided a morning clinic, shuttling in more than 100 children from the Coachella Valley Unified School District as part of the inaugural Rosie Casals and Pancho Gonzalez Kids Tennis Fiesta at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
The event was organized by her Love & Love Tennis Foundation as a part of National Hispanic Heritage Month, and she hopes it will become an annual activity to provide clinics and mentoring to Hispanic children who want to learn the game.
“It’s a partnership to bring Hispanic Heritage Month to Indian Wells,” said Casals, a Palm Desert resident of El Salvadorian decent who won more doubles titles (112) than anyone other than Martina Navratilova.
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The event also honored former pro Charlie Pasarell of Puerto Rico, who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2013, largely due to his efforts in building the BNP Paribas Open into one of the five biggest tennis events in the world.
Pasarell also founded the National Junior Tennis League, a grassroots program that introduces children to tennis. Pasarell founded the NJTL 50 years ago with his former college roommate, the late Arthur Ashe.
More than 20 instructors led the children through basic technique drills on the practice courts just outside Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden from about 9:45 a.m. until close to noon.
Casals hopes the event will bring in children from beyond the Coachella Valley to benefit from the renowned instructors and facilities in the California desert.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Love and Love Tennis Foundation and the Richard Pancho Gonzalez Youth Foundation. Gonzalez was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1968, having played during what has been referred to as a golden age of tennis.
Now, like Casals, his foundation helped children learn the game without enduring the massive cost that typically accompanies playing the sport competitively.
Casals’ tennis career spanned more than three decades, starting in the early 1960s. With Billie Jean King, she won five Wimbledon doubles titles that helped earn Casals 12 Grand Slam doubles titles and the No. 1 ranking in doubles for most of the mid 1960s and 1970s.
Casals is also remembered as a television commentator for the 1973 Battle of the Sexes match between King and Bobby Riggs in the Houston Astrodome that drew an estimated 90 million viewers worldwide.
Now, she hopes her events will have an influence on the next generation in the sport.
“This is the first year, and we will expand it,” she said. “We will look into what we can do to make it even better.
“We’re pretty excited about it.”