Pasarell’s look back on Andre Agassi’s first trip to the BNP Paribas Open

By Leighton Ginn

Former BNP Paribas Open owner and tournament director Charlie Pasarell said his mentor Pancho Gonzalez request an unknown 15-year-old get a wildcard. Without question or seeing the kid, Pasarell gave the kid a wildcard.

That kid happened to be Andre Agassi.

Agassi did well in the first round, beating John Austin, setting up a matchup against then No. 1 Mats Wilander.

Prior to the match, Wilander came into Pasarell’s office to ask what he knew about Agassi.

Pasarell didn’t know much, but suggest Wilander avoid his forehand.

When Pasarell went to watch the match, Wilander hit every shot to Agassi’s forehand, and won in dominating fashion, which Pasarell jokes about.

“Well that’s how much I know about the game of tennis,” Pasarell said laughing.

Because Agassi was an amateur, he couldn’t accept prize money. But Pasarell said made sure Agassi was properly compensated.

Agassi had put in his expenses as $300, but the prize money for reaching the second round was $1,000.

But Pasarell said he looked at Agassi’s expenses and thought there were things that were off, and made his corrections.

The story was later told differently by Agassi in his autobiography, “Open.”

Below is the full video of Pasarell talking about Agassi at the BNP Paribas Open.

Andy Roddick impressed with how far Novak Djokovic has come, but too early to rank him as GOAT

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By Leighton Ginn

Andy Roddick said when Novak Djokovic first burst into the consciousness of the ATP Tour, he wasn’t an obvious talent like he saw when contemporaries Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal debuted.

Yet if Djokovic can continue on the trend he is, he might go down as the greatest ever, surpassing both Federer and Nadal.

“I think with Novak, it’s a realistic conversation to have,” Roddick said on July 13 over the course of two conference calls to promote appearances at the International Tennis Hall of Fame on July 17 and World Team Tennis on Aug. 9-10. “And it’s a realistic question to ask, where you think he’ll fall in that line. It’s a complement to him that he’s forced his way into that conversation.”

For over a decade, Federer has been talked about as the greatest ever, and holds the record with 17 major singles title. Nadal is tied with Pete Sampras for second with 14. Djokovic is tied with Roy Emerson for fourth with 12.

Djokovic is 29 and playing the best tennis of his career. He had won all four majors consecutively until his upset loss to Sam Querrey in the third round of Wimbledon.

If Djokovic continues dominating the tour, five more majors is within the realm of possibility.

It’s time to talk about Novak Djokovic as one of the greatest ever in tennis

In comparison, Federer did reach the semifinals of Wimbledon, but has not won a major title since the 2012 Wimbledon. Nadal has struggled with injuries and hasn’t won a major title since the 2014 French Open.

But Roddick said it’s really hard to judge until Djokovic, Federer and Nadal complete their careers.

“It’s like comparing movies having not watched the last 20 percent of the great movies,” Roddick said. “Right now, if you look at the numbers, Roger is there and five slams (lead) is significant, but Novak is obviously trending. He’s the greatest right now.”

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July 13, 2013;Mylan World Team Tennis Springfield Lasers @ Orange County Breakers Andy Roddick (USA). Photo courtesy of CameraworkUSA.

 

Roddick is a contemporary with Federer, as they both won their first major titles in 2003, with Federer taking Wimbledon and Roddick the US Open, which would be his only major title. And Roddick, a mainstay in the top-10 throughout his career, also has a long history against Nadal and Djokovic.

Two years later, Nadal would come onto the scene and had an instant impact as a teenager in 2005.

Roddick said it was obvious from the start of both Federer and Nadal’s careers would be special.

“You look at Rafa and he’s a physical specimen, the weight of shot is amazing,” Roddick said. “You look at Roger  and the talent is instant to your eye. What he can do on a tennis court, and with the flare and the options he had on a tennis court, it created a little bit of jealousy.”

The first impression Roddick had of Djokovic was very different. While Djokovic was a promising young talent, Roddick saw enough weaknesses he could take advantage of.

“With Djokovic, I don’t think it was as obvious to the eye when he first came out, but he’s improved the most after the first four or five years of his career,” Roddick said. “To take something like his physical fitness, something I viewed as a weakness when I played him in 2008 and 09, he’s turned it into a bonafide strength for him now, which is a testament not only to his work ethic, but also to his ability to see what his weaknesses were.”

Roddick also points to Djokovic’s forehand, a shot that could be prone to errors in pressure situations earlier in his career. That’s not the case anymore, Roddick said.

“Early on, I knew I could go to that side and maybe get a couple of tight errors,” Roddick said. “With just little technical adjustments, now it’s a strength under pressure.

“I think his progress as a player is maybe the most obvious of those three guys. It’s really impressive what he’s become.”

Roddick said he got a chance to know Djokovic a little more during a trip to South Korea for an exhibition they were playing.

Djokovic approached Roddick to see if he would like to go early to hit and work off the jet lag.

Roddick agreed and showed up 30 minutes early. He didn’t see Djokovic in the locker room and was wondering if he would be late.

When Roddick walked to the court, he found Djokovic, who had arrived 30 minutes before Roddick and was in the middle of his stretching routine.

“I think it gives you a peak into why he is where he is right now,” Roddick said.

 

 

 

 

Andy Roddick returns to grass for first time since 2012 Olympics as he plays in Hall of Fame exhibition

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Andy Roddick shakes hands with former US Davis Cup teammate James Blake following a PowerShares match. Roddick and Blake will compete in the PowerShares event on July 17 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame prior to the men’s final.  Photo courtesy of PowerShares Series.

 

By Leighton Ginn

Andy Roddick said one of the appeals of playing in the International Tennis Hall of Fame exhibition on July 17 is the opportunity to return to his favorite surface, grass.

Roddick was a three-time finalist at the most storied grass-court tournament, Wimbledon. But Roddick has not played on the surface since the 2012 Olympics, which was held at the All England Club, the home of Wimbledon. A few weeks later, Roddick would retire from the tour, but continues playing on the seniors’ PowerShares Legends Series, which is part of the July 17 event in Newport, R.I.

PowerShares Series

“There’s not a lot of grass court tennis available for retired players,” Roddick joked during one of two conference calls on July 13. “Grass was my favorite surface to play on, so any excuse to get back on that court and play on grass is a win all the way around for me. I’m excited about it.”

Roddick will join James Blake, Mark Philippoussis and 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Marat Safin in the exhibition. Joining Safin as an inductee will be Justine Henin. Two other honorees, Yvon Petra and Margaret Scriven, will be inducted posthumously.

It will be the first time Roddick will play in Newport, R.I., as he missed the ATP event during his career.

Although he never made it to Newport, Roddick is knowledgable of the history, which makes it appealing for him this weekend.

And grass is the perfect surface, as much of the history of tennis was played on grass.

It also helps that grass was one of the surfaces that suited Roddick’s game, featuring a rocket serve and power forehands.

“On some other surfaces, the slower surfaces, I had to make more adjustments than I did on grass,” Roddick said. “What I did well as a player translated well on grass, and it just made sense to me.”

Roddick’s shoes from his 2003 US Open title are on display in the museum. In the future, Roddick hopes more than his shoes will be displayed in the Hall of Fame.

In addition to his US Open title, Roddick was a former No. 1 and led the US to a Davis Cup title.

“That’s the goal of any tennis player because it’s the pinnacle achievement for what can happen to you post-career,” Roddick said. “I almost feel weird talking about it, because you feel undeserving when you look at the people who have been inducted. But it’s natural to think about. I certainly hope to be considered.”

 

 

 

National Hispanic Heritage Month: When Charlie Pasarell gave Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras their first pro breaks

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In the late 80s and throughout the 90s, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were the top stars in tennis and formed one of the sports’ legendary rivalries.

What both had in common was they launched their pro careers at the BNP Paribas Open.

First, Agassi got his break thanks to a phone call from Pancho Gonzales. Pasarell, trusting his idol, gave Agassi the wildcard, sight unseen.

During that debut, Agassi would have to play No. 1 Mats Wilander. Pasarell gave Wilander some advice on how to play the teenager, which he totally disregarded.

Unlike Agassi, Pasarell got a chance to watch Sampras play. Sampras lost in a qualifier, but Pasarell liked what he saw, so he gave him a wildcard.

Sampras would go on to win two rounds in a impressive debut. Later that year, Sampras would turn pro.

National Hispanic Heritage Month, Charlie Pasarell vs. Pancho Gonzales. The final set and missed opportunites

A room key from the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club that features a picture of Pancho Gonzales.

A room key from the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club that features a picture of Pancho Gonzales.

Charlie Pasarell had built a Hall of Fame life after his playing days, as an early board member of the ATP Tour and builder of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif.

But what people most remember from Pasarell, a Puerto Rican native, is his match against Mexican-American legend Pancho Gonzales, one that he jokes that he’s trying to forget. Pasarell saw his two set advantage evaporate in the second day as Gonzales rallied for a 22-24, 1-6,  16-14, 6-3, 11-9 at the 1969 Wimbledon.

Even if people didn’t bring up the match, Pasarell probably would still have a hard time forgetting the six match points he had against Gonzales, including two that wrote off as bad luck.

Pasarell recalled his marathon match as part of National Hispanic Heritage Month for Ginn & Topics.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Charlie Pasarell vs. Pancho Gonzales, the first set

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Charlie Pasarell said when he played the 41-year-old Pancho Gonzales in 1969, the plan was to keep the legendary player on the court as long as he could to take advantage of the 16-year age difference at Wimbledon.

The plan worked, but the result wasn’t what Pasarell hoped for.

The 25-year-old Pasarell, a native of Puerto Rico, came up short in a match that spanned five hours and 12 minutes and was contested over two days. The Mexican-American Gonzales rallied for a 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9 victory that ranked among the greatest matches in Wimbledon history.

The match stood as the longest in Wimbledon history until 2010, when John Isner defeated Nicolas Mahut, 6–4, 3–6, 6–7, 7–6, 70–68, which lasted 11 hours, five minutes.

Pasarell grew up idolizing Gonzales and then was tutored by him during his UCLA days.

The 1969 match at Wimbledon was the only time Pasarell said he faced Gonzales, who was already inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame a year earlier.

Pasarell was sharing his story and career as part of a Ginn & Topics special series for National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.

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

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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.