FLUSHING, N.Y., September 2, 2009 – The USTA announced today that actor Benjamin Bratt will host a tribute to former U.S. Championships winner Pancho Gonzalez on-court in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the Night Session on Saturday, September 5. The tribute will celebrate Gonzalez on the 60th anniversary of his second consecutive victory at the U.S. Championships, and members of the Gonzalez family as well as a number of former players and Hispanic community leaders will be in attendance.
Gonzalez, who taught himself how to play tennis at the age of 12, was considered one of the most talented tennis players of his generation and was a fan favorite on the professional tour throughout the 1950s and 60s. Early in his career, which spanned four decades, he won back-to-back titles at the U.S. Championships in Forest Hills, N.Y. at the ages of 20 and 21. He also won two matches to help the U.S. defeat Australia to capture the 1949 Davis Cup title. His passion and intensity led to an illustrious career as the world No. 1 for an unequaled eight years. As a 40-year-old in 1968, he reached the semifinals at Roland Garros and the quarterfinals of the inaugural US Open. The following year, Gonzalez played Charlie Pasarell at Wimbledon in a five-hour match that spanned two days and led to the advent of the tie-break. Gonzalez also became the oldest player to ever win a professional tournament when he won the Des Moines Open just shy of his 44th birthday. Gonzalez was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame while still an active player in 1968.
“The USTA is proud to celebrate the life and legacy of such a great champion as Pancho Gonzalez,” said Lucy Garvin, President and Chairman of the Board, USTA. “Pancho was a true pioneer in the sport of tennis and this tribute will shed light on the importance of Pancho Gonzalez to the game and its history.”
“Pancho Gonzalez was a trailblazer, not only in tennis, but across the greater American cultural landscape,” said Bratt. “He was a role model for a generation of Hispanic-Americans, and this tribute will rightly call attention to his important and lasting legacy. I’m proud to be a part of this celebration to honor a true legend.”
Members of the Gonzalez family will be in attendance, along with students from the Pancho Gonzalez TennisAcademy in Washington, D.C., one of whom will conduct the pre-match coin toss.
Hispanic dignitaries attending include:
- Benjamin Bratt, actor
- Lynda Baquero, NBC4 New York
- Dr. Jane Delgado, CEO, National Alliance for Hispanic Health
- Tim Garcia, judge, New Mexico
- Danny Haro, producer/director, 2006 Pancho Gonzalez Documentary
- Augustin Martinez, President, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
- Martha Montoya, President, Los Kitos Entertainment
- Charlie Pasarell, former tennis champion
- Bobby Perez, former tennis champion
- Tony Plana, actor
- John Quiñones, ABC Primetime
- Alfred Rascon, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient
- Pancho Segura (“Little Pancho”), former tennis champion
- Jimmy Smits, actor
- Andrew Valdez, judge, Utah
- Eduardo Xol, TV personality
- Al Zapanta, CEO, U.S. – Mexico Chamber of Commerce
The 2009 US Open will mark the culmination of the Olympus US Open Series, the six-week summer tennis season linking all major ATP and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour tournaments in North America to the US Open. The US Open is the highest-attended annual sporting event in the world. In 2008, Roger Federer won his fifth consecutive US Open title, defeating Andy Murray in the final. In the women’s singles final, Serena Williams defeated Jelena Jankovic to capture her third career US Open title.
The 2009 US Open will be held Monday, August 31, through Sunday, September 13. Tickets for the 2009 US Open can be purchased four ways: 1) at USOpen.org; 2) by calling Ticketmaster at 1-866-OPEN-TIX; 3) at all Ticketmaster outlets; or 4) at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center box office. American Express is the Official Card of the US Open.