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Wed, Oct. 16

Howard: ‘The bigger the challenge, the harder I try’
My Point

Charlie Pasarell said, “The bigger the challenge, the harder I try.” “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” Arthur Ashe.

There’s a man who was born in 1944 in the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico, who came from a loving and stable tennis family, Charlie Pasarell. Charlie (74) is one of those sober characters that Ashe’s quote embellishes. They played tennis/roomed together at UCLA, partnered on the tour at different times and were great friends.

Charlie Pasarell is most recently best known as the past tournament director, managing partner, and former owner of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., but his contributions as a tennis industry leader have spanned all levels of the sport.

Pasarell’s leadership activities were preceded by a successful playing career in which he achieved the No. 1 ranking in the United States in 1967. He was a member of the United States Davis Cup team for five years, including the championship team in 1968. Pasarell won 18 singles titles, including the U.S. National Indoor Championships in 1966 and 1967. Also in 1966, he was the NCAA Singles and Doubles champion, playing for UCLA.

His father was the San Juan tennis champion for many years through the 1950’s and many of his relatives were avid players, so this game ran deep through Charlie’s veins growing up.

One of his defining moments as a player was against his hero, mentor, Davis Cup coach and close friend Pancho Gonzales during a Wimbledon match on center court in 1969. After the 25 year-old Pasarell won the first two sets 24-22, 6-1, the match was called due to darkness. Pancho at 41 years of age came back the next day to win the next three 16-14, 6-3, 11-9 to what became the longest match in the fortnights history until recently.

Yet behind the scenes he’s always been finding ways to utilize the game to give back to the community. In 1969, Pasarell partnered with Arthur Ashe and Sheridan Snyder to launch the National Junior Tennis League. The goal of the organization was to have a positive impact on at-risk children. The program continues to be the largest grassroots tennis program in the United States, with more than 3 50 chapters.

In 1971 Pasarell and a group of fellow players founded the ATP and he served until 1978. When the Men’s International Professional Tennis Circuit became the ruling body of men’s tennis from 1986-1990, Pasarell served as a tournament representative. When the ATP World Tour began in 1990 Pasarell was once again elected to serve as their representative for 20 consecutive years, until he retired in 2010.

It’s this type of behind the scene volunteer service for others that many never see or truly appreciate.

In 1981, Pasarell took over as tournament director of the ATP World Tour event in the Coachella Valley of California. He created the new Hyatt Grand Champions Hotel with the hook to the bankers that a tennis stadium will make money where a big swimming pool won’t.

The event grew to be the largest two-week combined ATP and WTA tennis tournament in the world and the most well-attended tennis event after the four Grand Slams. The tournament has nearly 475,000 in attendance and the television broadcast to more than one billion homes worldwide.

The growth necessitated new, state-of-the-art tennis facilities, taking the venue from a 7,500-seat stadium court to a 29-court, 100 + acre complex including a 16,100-seat main stadium, 8,000 seat 2nd stadium, six smaller stadiums, and 44 luxury suites.

After more than 30 years working on the event, Pasarell announced his departure from the BNP Paribas Open in 2012.

He remains active in tennis industry programs and is currently working on the development of a 2,000 acre residential golf/tennis community in his native Puerto Rico called Royal Isabela.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 45 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or

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