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Wimbledon • History Shows The Event Used To Have A “Plate ” • A Tourney For First Round Losers

Nancy Gill Mc Shea Remembers • PAM CASALE and Her WIMBLEDON Experiences


You’ve gotta love Wimbledon! Pam Casale’s Dad played the music from “Rocky” for inspiration before all of her tennis matches. So it’s a given that Pam, who at 16 lost her first-round ladies’ singles match at the 1981 Wimbledon Championships, would disagree with the title of her mentor Nick Bollettieri’s recent documentary: “Love Means Zero.” It was Pam’s first visit to the All England Club and she moved right into the Wimbledon Plate Championships, the consolation draw for first-round losers, where she eventually bowed in the finals to Australia’s Sue Saliba.

“I was shocked that I did that well on Wimbledon’s grass; I loved it,“ said Pam, who refused to allow her first Wimbledon to translate to “Love Means Zero.” She returned to Wimbledon every year from 1982-1987, advanced to the mixed doubles quarters with Chile’s Jaime Fillol, earned a couple of trips to the third round of singles, and ranked No. 14 in the world in 1984.

Bollettieri agreed that career stats were no substitute for witnessing Pam’s spirited performances on the world’s tennis courts, which elicited the kind of dramatic theatre that could have put her into Oscar contention with iconic screen divas Elizabeth Taylor or Sophia Loren. “Pam approached a match as if it was a battle, so fiercely fought that fans felt this same emotion,” said Bollettieri, who trained Pam at his Florida academy when she was 14, along with friends Jimmy Arias, Paul Annacone and other blooming pros. “Her strokes were ugly, especially the backhand which had her elbow out so far in front of her body you thought the elbow would land before the ball…Her success was directly related to street fighting and competing….giving 110 percent all the time.”

Annacone echoed Bollettieri’s analysis. “I have vivid memories of watching Pam’s ‘flawed’ backhand zip past opponents and watching her climb the women’s rankings while so-called experts said she could not achieve the elite level,” he said. “She had ferocious tenacity on the court, yet could sit down and discuss life’s complexities…with compassion and understanding.”

The late Al Picker, the tennis guru of the Newark Star-Ledger, began tracking Pam’s career in her native New Jersey before she opted for Bollettieri’s, and later recalled one of her difficult third-round matches at Wimbledon before the dawn of electronic line calls. “Pam was at the court in time for her scheduled tussle, but her veteran opponent was very late,“ Picker wrote. “Usually, Wimbledon rules would have penalized or defaulted the veteran but leniency was shown…Not only did the veteran test Pam’s resolve, so did the officiating. Numerous balls flew over the baseline and not a single call was made… The famed Casale temper flared several times, and she was positively in the right as I sat behind this veteran official. Close calls I could understand but when they continued to land 10 to 12 inches out, it became a joke. I moved…to get a better look at the linesman and got the shock of my life. He was dozing on and off. Pam received severe warnings from the chair but…she had every right to complain. Despite her distress – she was down a set and 4-1, eventually lost 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 — she was the consummate performer and remembered court etiquette, shaking the hand of her foe and the chair umpire. She is a true sport.”

Pam, currently the head tennis pro at the Addison Reserve Club in Delray Beach, Florida, says simply – and always with a smile – “How can you be in a lifestyle that you love, win or lose, and not feel lucky?” Tennis, everyone?


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