Charlie Pasarell talks Bobby Kennedy, Pete Sampras, Arthur Ashe and Andre Agassi

Charles Pasarell, a member of the 2013 International Tennis Hall of Fame, was very generous with his time with us to talk about the sport he loves. Here are some videos we did with him that will be of interest.

Bobby Kennedy and Arthur Ashe: At the UCLA Hall of Fame, I saw this photo years ago of Pasarell, Bobby Kennedy and Ashe. It was weeks before Kennedy was assassinated. Pasarell had a personal relationship with the Kennedy family. Pasarell and Ashe were UCLA teammates and roommates. They had run into Kennedy while getting ready for the Davis Cup. They crossed path with Kennedy, who was on the campaign trail

Pasarell on longest match at Wimbledon: Pasarell’s most talked-about match was playing against a 41-year-old Pancho Gonzalez on Centre Court of Wimbledon. The match lasted over five hours and stood until 2010.

Pasarell gave Pete Sampras his break: Pasarell talks about how he gave a teenaged Pete Sampras his first break. Sampras got a wildcard into the tournament and won two rounds.

Pasarell gives Andre Agassi his first shot: Andre Agassi make his professional debut thanks to Pasarell. Because Agassi was an amateur, he couldn’t accept prize money, but Pasarell made sure he was taken care of.

Pasarell on the Indian Wells Tennis Garden: Pasarell shared his thoughts on how he wanted the 16,100-seat stadium to feel for the fans.

Can John Isner win the French Open after Davis Cup success?

John Isner already has had an incredible year in Davis Cup, beating Roger Federer in the first round, and French stars Gilles Simon and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga this weekend. And both were on the road on clay.

On Twitter, someone suggested Isner will be a force at the French Open, maybe even win it. I can only agree with half that statement. Isner plays the quintessential American game with a big forehand and big serve, but he doesn’t do it as well as Pete Sampras. Sampras never got to the finals of the French Open in an era where Roland Garros was wide open.  Sampras’ era never had a player who dominated the red clay like Rafael Nadal.  

Nadal wouldn’t be the only player Isner would have to struggle with. Federer has won a French Open title, and  Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have been better clay players than Isner. Asking Isner to beat one of the big four is a huge task. Beating two of the big four, which is likely what he would have to do to win the French Open, is a gigantic task.

But he certainly can do well. With the way Isner is playing, you’d think there’s no reason why he couldn’t get into the quarterfinals. Guys like Simon and Tsonga are expected to get to the quarterfinals, and Isner beat both this weekend.

 U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier had the most success of any American in recent years when he claimed the French Open title twice in the early 90s. Courier is proving to have one of the best coaching minds in the game, and if he goes to Paris and helps advise Isner, that could help Isner’s chances.

I like Isner’s chances to have a good run at Roland Garros, and he’s had an exciting run this year. It could be a boost American tennis needs. But let’s not say he’s got a chance to win the clay court major — yet.

Tennis Channel’s encore of 100 Greatest Of All Time on April 7

In case you missed it, and I was one who did, Tennis Channel will have an encore showing of its 100 Greatest Of All Time on Saturday.

This is a great idea, and I am surprised it took the Tennis Channel a while to put something like this together. Who doesn’t enjoy debating who was better? Rod Laver, Roger Federer or Pete Sampras in the men’s game, or Martina Navratilova, Margaret Court, Serena Williams or Steffi Graf in the women’s game.  

Each segment was hosted by an all-time great in a sport other than tennis, which adds to the appeal of the show. These were golf’s Jack Nicklaus (No. 100-71), football’s Jerry Rice (70-41), track and field’s Carl Lewis (40-21), basketball’s Lisa Leslie (20-11) and hockey’s Wayne Gretzky (10-1).

For those of you who want to watch and not know the results, look away. Here’s my thoughts on the list, with the entire list to follow.

Roger Federer is one of the most extraordinary tennis players of all time, but I’ve never heard anything that would make me select him over Rod Laver as the greatest player ever. Laver has done something no other player has done in the past 40+ years, which is win the Grand Slam. And he did it twice! People want to be dismissive of Laver’s Grand Slam, but if you look at the depth of talent early in Federer’s career (think pre-Rafa), you could argue he should have won the Grand Slam and he didn’t. And if you look at that time, how many Hall of Fame players did Federer have to go through? It was less than Laver.

Rafael Nadal is No. 6, behind Pete Sampras at No. 5. Well, you can make an argument that Nadal should be ahead of Sampras since he’s dominated Federer, the No. 1 player on this list. And Nadal has won majors on all surfaces. Of course, we can’t ignore how Pete dominated the tour, finishing as the year-end No. 1 for six consecutive years. And he too dominated his main rival, Andre Agassi, who was No. 12.

Working in the women is a tricky thing. The top woman in the ranking is Steffi Graf at No. 3, followed by Martina Navratilova at No. 4, which seems just about right. Margaret Court is next at No. 8, followed by Chris Evert at No. 9 and Billie Jean King at No. 10. For me, Billie Jean King would be the top woman, but admittedly its for what she’s done socially for this country as an activist. But for just tennis accomplishments, 10 seems pretty good.

Serena Williams is at No. 14, and she might be the toughest one to place. She’s a one-of-a-kind talent who was dominant when she wanted to be. But there is a feeling of potential unrealized. If Williams stayed the course and didn’t have her medical problem, she should still be No. 1 now. Too bad.

Here’s the list.


The Top 10
10 – Billie Jean King, F, USA
9 – Chris Evert, F, USA
8 – Margaret Court, F, AUS
7 – Bjorn Borg, M, SWE
6 – Rafael Nadal, M, ESP
5 – Pete Sampras, M, USA
4 – Martina Navratilova, F, USA/CZE
3 – Steffi Graf, F, GER
2 – Rod Laver, M, AUS
1 – Roger Federer, M, SUI
Full list: (#11-100)
100 – Michael Chang, M, USA
99 – Ann Haydon Jones, F, GBR
98 – Henry Bunny Austin, M, GBR
97 – Pat Cash, M, AUS
96 – Manuel Orantes, M, ESP
95 – Thomas Muster, M, AUT
94 – Andy Roddick, M, USA
93 – Nicola Pietrangeli, M, ITA
92 – Svetlana Kuznetsova, F, RUS
91 – Shirley Fry Irvin, F, USA
90 – Bill Johnston, M, USA
89 – Dorothea Lambert Chambers, F, GBR
88 – Amelie Mauresmo, F, FRA
87 – Mary Pierce, F, FRA
86 – Tony Wilding, M, NZL
85 – Yannick Noah, M, FRA
84 – Norman Brookes, M, AUS
83 – Jan Kodes, M, CZE
82 – Yevgeny Kafelnikov, M, RUS
81 – Vic Seixas, M, USA
80 – Marat Safin, M, RUS
79 – Gabriela Sabatini, F, ARG
78 – Ashley Cooper, M, AUS
77 – Molla Mallory, F, USA
76 – William Renshaw, M, GBR
75 – Pauline Betz Addie, F, USA
74 – Tony Roche, M, AUS
73 – Jaroslav Drobny, M, CZE
72 – Gottfried Von Cramm, M, GER
71 – Maria Sharapova, F, RUS
70 – Patrick Rafter , M, AUS
69 – Louise Brough , F, USA
68 – Helen Hull Jacobs , F, USA
67 -  Fred Stolle , M, AUS
66 – Bobby Riggs , M, USA
65 – Pancho Segura  , M, ECU
64 – Ellsworth Vines , M, USA
63 – Lleyton Hewitt  , M, AUS
62 – Hana Mandlikova , F, CZE
61 – Neale Fraser , M, AUS
60 – Virginia Wade , F, GBR
59 – Margaret Osborne Dupont, F,  USA
58 – Alice Marble , F,  USA
57 – Jennifer Capriati , F, USA
56 – Stan Smith, M, USA
55 -  Gustavo Kuerten, M, BRA
54 – Manuel Santana, M, ESP 
53 – Tracy Austin, F, USA
52 – Jack Crawford, M, AUS
51 – Doris Hart, F, USA
50 – Tony Trabert, M, USA
49 – Ilie Nastase , M, ROM
48 – Frank Sedgman, M, AUS
47 -  Jean Borotra, M, FRA
46 -  Henri Cochet, M, FRA
45 -  Kim Clijsters, F, BEL 
44 -  Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, F, ESP
43 -  Lindsay Davenport, F, USA
42 -  Jim Courier, M, USA
41 -  Guillermo Vilas, M, ARG
40 – Novak Djokovic, M, SRB
39 – Althea Gibson, F, USA
38 – Maria Bueno, M, BRA
37 – Evonne Goolagong Cawley, F, AUS
36 – Rene Lacoste, M, FRA
35 – Pancho Gonzalez, M, USA
34 – Jack Kramer, M, USA
33 – Mats Wilander, M, SWE
32 – Lew Hoad, M, AUS
31 – John Newcombe, M, AUS
30 – Martina Hingis, F, SUI
29 – Helen Wills Moody Roark, F, USA
28 – Arthur Ashe, M, USA
27 – Maureen Connolly Brinker, F, USA
26 – Justine Henin, F, BEL
25 – Stefan Edberg, M, SWE
24 – Suzanne Lenglen, F, FRA
23 – Fred Perry, M, GBR
22 – Venus Williams, F, USA
21 – Boris Becker, M, GER
20 – Ken Rosewall, M, AUS
19 – Monica Seles, F, USA
18 – Ivan Lendl, M, CZE
17 – Roy Emerson, M, AUS
16 – Bill Tilden, M, USA
15 – Jimmy Connors, M, USA
14 – Serena Williams, F, USA
13 – John McEnroe, M, USA
12 – Andre Agassi, M, USA
11 – Don Budge, M, USA

Novak Djokovic on Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi

: When No. 1 Novak Djokovic was asked who he would like to play fro the past, he didn’t hesitate in naming the man who has been his idol – Pete Sampras.

“I would love to return that serve,” Djokovic said. “Unfortunately never had an opportunity to hit with him and to play an official match. But, look, you know, I would love to.  At least an exhibition match would be a satisfaction.”

Although Djokovic has never played against Sampras, he has met with him on a few occasions.

“He gave me some really great advice from his own experience when he became No. 1 and what it took him to stay there for a long time,” Djokovic said. “We have kind of a similar careers, you know, rankings‑wise, and so it was a very valuable experience for me to sit down and chat with him.”

 Ironically, Djokovic might more closely resemble Sampras’ biggest rival, Andre Agassi. Both have a bit of a showman in them, as well as the best return games of their generations.

“And then you have Andre that gave this I think dose of fun and enjoyment and entertainment to the sport in the way he was dressing and playing, behaving on the court,” Djokovic said.  “It was just so interesting to watch Andre play.”