National Hispanic Heritage Month: Charlie Pasarell and the man who was a mentor and rival


In 1969, Puerto Rican native Charlie Pasarell played in what many considered one of the greatest matches ever played at Wimbledon, when he lost an epic match to Mexican-American Pancho Gonzales, 22–24, 1–6, 16–14, 6–3, 11–9 in a match that last five hours and 12 minutes and spanned over two days.

Before that match, Pasarell grew up idolizing the hard-serving Gonzales, who was the No. 1 professional tennis player for eight consecutive years.

By the time Pasarell got to UCLA, where he would win the NCAA singles and doubles title in 1966, he got a chance to meet and play sets against his idol.

Pasarell also got a first-hand look at Gonzales’ temper.

As Gonzales was having his way with Pasarell, winning the first set and leading 5-2 in the second, he decided to give the young player advice on his backhand.

Gonzales was probably too good a teacher and Pasarell would rally to tie the set at 5-5 before Gonzeles stormed off in a huff.

In the video below, Pasarell talks about what Gonzales meant to him as Ginn & Topic begins a series for National Hispanic Heritage Month, profiling some pioneers and groundbreaking people in sports.

National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.

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