Hispanic Heritage | Hispanic Heritage Month 2010 begins September 15


September 15 kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month, a period celebrating Hispanic heritage and culture as well as the many contributions of Hispanic Americans throughout American history. Looking specifically at tennis history, one of the most dominant players in the history of the sport was Ricardo Alonso González, aka Pancho Gonzalez, a Mexican American tennis player who ruled the courts from 1947 through 1973.

During the period of the late 40s through 1967, many considered Gonzales to be the best male tennis player. He won back-to-back titles at the U.S. Championships in Forest Hills (now the US Open) in 1948 and 1949. Additionally, in 1949 he won two matches, helping the U.S. defeat Australia to capture the Davis Cup. He was ranked No. 1 in the world for eight years from 1952 until 1960. He was also responsible in part for changing the game of tennis after his 1969 appearance at Wimbledon, where he played Charlie Pasarell in a five-hour match that spanned two days and led to the advent of the tie-break.

Today, there continues to be Latino and Hispanic tennis players at every level of the game. Programs such as the National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) network, which reaches 220,000 youth each year, have helped foster youth tennis programs across the country in hundreds of locations, especially in underserved communities. For example, Martin Israel Soto, 13, of Middlestates USTA in Trenton, NJ, was one of 40 underprivileged children in the United States selected out from the entire NJTL network around the country to participate in the Arthur Ashe-inspired National Junior Tennis and Learning Tennis Leadership Camp this past July. According to the NJTL in 2009, across the program as a whole, 20% of participants identified Hispanic/Latino and is increasing. In fact, in 2009, Hispanic participation among all American who play tennis increased 32%.

* Figures are from a survey released late last year conducted annually by the Taylor Research Group on behalf of the Tennis Industry Association (TIA) and the United States Tennis Association (USTA)

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