Hall of Famer Rosie Casals honors friend Pancho Gonzales and Hispanic Month with kids clinic at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Pancho Gonzales was not only one of tennis' most dynamic champions, he was a devoted doubles player as well.
One of Gonzales' favorite doubles partners, 5-foot-2 Rosie Casals, earned the ultimate respect from the iconic champion. Casals was one of the only partners Gonzales permitted to hit smashes when they shared the court.
Hall of Famer Casals joined forces with the Richard Pancho Gonzalez Youth Foundation and USTA SoCal staffers and volunteers to honor her late friend and celebrate Hispanic month with the second annual Kids Tennis Fiesta at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Both Pancho Gonzales and Rosie Casals learned to play tennis on California's public courts.
Casals' Love and Love Foundation and the Pancho Foundation are continuing the Hall of Famers' mission of teaching tennis to kids.
Rosie Casals (center) with members of Pancho Gonzales' family at Indian Wells Tennis Garden
The eldest of seven children in a Mexican-American family, Gonzales was a self-taught player who grew up playing at Exposition Park in Los Angeles, a few miles from the Compton, California public park courts where Venus Williams and Serena Williams learned tennis decades later.
The daughter of immigrants from El Salvador, Casals picked up tennis playing on San Francisco's public park courts.
Casals and Gonzales' family, including his sons and former doubles partner, Richard Gonzales, Jr. and Dan Gonzales, were on hand along with USTA volunteers and coaches teaching at the foundation's second kids' clinic at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. And for the second year, Rafa Osuna, nephew of legendary former No. 1 Rafael Osuna, and his wife Claudia attended and helped coach a group of performance juniors
About 120 children participated in the Indian Wells' clinic.
Photo credit: NorCal
In addition to tennis drills and games, there was food and goodie bags for the children as well as mariachis and pinatas in a festive celebration of Hispanic month.
Further, as a extension of Hispanic month, the Gonzalez Foundation continued the month conducting kids' clinics at the Santa Maria Boys Club, which featured about 40 junior player participants.
Photo credit: NorCal
The Foundation concluded its clinic tour at Riverdale High School, a local Modesto, CA high school to teach three schools that participate in NorCal's HITS program. HITS is an acronym for Honesty, Inspiration, Tennis and Sportsmanship. About 80 junior players participated in the clinic.
The Foundation hopes to make its Hispanic Month tour an annual event.
"It really went well. We hope to extend out our tour next year," said Greg Gonzales, Pancho Gonzales' nephew and co-founder of the Richard Pancho Gonzalez Youth Foundation. "We're very grateful and appreciative of both the USTA's Southern Cal and Northern Cal staff and volunteers who contributed so much time and effort to the clinics."
Photo credit: Richard Pancho Gonzalez Youth Foundation