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.

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