Rich Game, Poor Background
Casals, born in San Francisco, was a distant relative of famed cellist Pablo Casals, but grew up poor to parents had moved to the United States from El Salvador. They arranged for Manuel and Maria Casals, her great-uncle and great-aunt, to raise her. Rosemary Casals began playing on the city's free tennis courts at Golden Gate Park; Manuel Casals was her only tennis coach. Ambitious, she insisted on playing against older players in junior tournaments.
At 5-foot-2, Casals faced a distinct height advantage on the court, but her biggest battle may have involved class conflict. Her impoverished background sharply contrasted with the affluence of many peers. Casals, however, channeled her aggressions into her play. With such nicknames as "Rosie" and "Rosebud" fast becoming misnomers, Casals earned a reputation, and popularity among many fans, for charging the net and even launching a shot from between her legs. She also won. She was the top junior and women's level player in Northern California by age 16. One year later she was ranked first in the country.
Her best play was in doubles. She and singles stand-out Billie Jean King teamed up to capture the U.S. hard-court and indoor tournaments in 1966, and in 1967, they prevailed in women's doubles at Wimbledon and the U.S. championships (later the U.S. Open), and also the South African championships. Casals and King became the only tandem to win U.S. titles on grass, clay, indoor and hard surfaces.
But her success as a doubles player meant that Casals's individual play was underappreciated. She rose to third in singles in 1970. Over her 15 years, Casals was 12 times in the top 10. She reached at least the quarterfinals in all four major tournaments.