In their own words: Michael-Ray Pallares on his tennis career and giving back to the sport
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the USTA also celebrates those in the Hispanic community whose dedication to the sport as USTA volunteers helps to keep our game growing strong. There are more than 350 national volunteers from all 17 USTA sections, and while it would be difficult to recognize every Hispanic leader here, we’re thrilled to be able to highlight these volunteer leaders, in their own words, whose contributions, influence and enthusiasm continue to push this organization and this sport forward. In this installment, USTA Adaptive Tennis Committee member Michael-Ray Pallares reflects on what tennis means to him.
Hispanic Heritage Month gives us an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the culture, history, achievements, and unique voices and experiences of Hispanic/Latino Americans. Within tennis and the USTA, these types of celebrations inspire younger generations and bring communities together through the sport of tennis.
I currently live in Tampa, and I’m honored to represent the Hispanic community, especially in this sport as a player, coach and volunteer—and as one who is able to use tennis as a vehicle to change people’s lives.
I’ve been involved in tennis since my father got me into the sport at age 3. As a player, I was a two-time USTA Junior National Champion, received a scholarship to play on the University of Alabama men's tennis team, and played professionally for many years, representing the Dominican Republic in the Davis Cup and having an ATP ranking for over 10 years. In 2021 and 2022, I’ve been ranked No. 1 nationally in the USTA Men's Open Division.
As a coach, I currently specialize in junior development. I also serve as a Pro Tour Coach and hitting partner for several touring pros, as well as several Top 10 ATP & WTA players. I have served as Director of Tennis for the Panamanian Tennis Federation, Turkmenistan Tennis Federation and Guam National Tennis Federation as the International Tennis Federation Expert Coach undertaking the Development of National Sport Structure. I am also the Director of Coach Education for the Union of Professional Tennis, offering courses and certifying coaches with the vision of promoting and growing the game and tennis worldwide.
As a volunteer, I am the founder of One Love Tennis Inc., a non-profit designed to reach underprivileged and low-income youth through affordable tennis, education and fitness. (One of the awards that I am most proud of is being named the 2019 Professional Tennis Registry Humanitarian of the Year for my work with One Love Tennis.) I have traveled all over the world, organizing Play-Day events designed to introduce kids to tennis, providing them with the opportunity to continue to develop and enhance their skills. I’ve also created a tennis for behavioral health curriculum that is geared toward educating coaches and therapists on how to implement a program designed to help individuals improve their overall health and wellness through tennis.
I’m also a member of the USTA Adaptive Tennis Committee—an amazing group of individuals who all share the passion of bringing tennis to a group that may otherwise not have the opportunity to participate in this life-changing sport. It is really inspiring to be a part of such a passionate group, with all of us sharing a common goal.
My parents have always been my mentors. My father is from Spain and my mother from the Dominican Republic, and both have always gone above and beyond to help me and support my goals—and importantly, they’ve encouraged me to lead a life of giving back. The United States is a very special place, because it is a country made up of people from all different types of backgrounds and nationalities. Celebrations like Hispanic Heritage Month allow us to recognize our backgrounds, come together as a community and use tennis to continue to unite us and help us grow.