Charlie Pasarell: An architect of modern tennis
San Juan native Charlie Pasarell is quietly one of the most influential figures in modern tennis: the son of a five-time Puerto Rican national champion also named Charlie—from which he earned his nickname, 'Charlito' (little Charlie)—Pasarell was a two-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist who won 23 career singles titles and 30 career doubles titles who transcended the amateur and Open eras who went on to have a long administrative career in the sport.
Behind the scenes, Pasarell, a longtime resident of California, revived the Indian Wells tournament in 1981, saving it from relocation. He was its tournament director from 1981-2009, continued his association with the event until 2012, and transformed the tournament into the largest combined men's and women's tour-level event. He was also the co-founder of the National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) network alongside Arthur Ashe and Sheridan Snyder in 1969, and together with Donald Dell, Jack Kramer, and Cliff Drysdale formed the Association of Tennis Professionals, what's known today as the ATP Tour, in 1972.
A college teammate of Ashe at UCLA, Pasarell called the founding of NJTL, which today provides free or low-cost tennis and education programming to over 160,000 under-resourced youths per year, "the highest thing, the best thing" he achieved in the game.
As a player, he reached the US Open doubles final partnering Dennis Rolston in 1969, the first year of Open tennis, and followed that up with a French Open runner-up finish alongside Ashe in 1970. He also played Pancho Gonzales in what was, until 2010, the longest match in Wimbledon history in terms of the number of games played: in 1969, the 41-year-old Gonzales finally defeated the 25-year-old Pasarell, 22–24, 1–6, 16–14, 6–3, 11–9, in 5 hours and 12 minutes.
For his efforts in the game, he was inducted into International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I. in July of 2013.
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