INDIAN WELLS, CA – The 2019 Annalee Thurston Award Reception was hosted by Original 9 trailblazer Rosie Casals at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 10, with renowned tennis commentator Mary Carillo serving as emcee for the evening.
The popular annual charity event once again raised funds for the Love & Love Tennis Foundation, which was founded by Hall of Famer Casals and fellow former player Tory Fretz in 2015 to promote grass roots and junior tennis in the Coachella Valley.
Highlight of the evening, which raised more than $75,000, was presentation of the Annalee Thurston Award to former WTA World No.1 Chris Evert. The award, started in 2011, recognizes women who have reached the pinnacle of their careers in both sports and business. Previous recipients include Micky Lawler, Deborah Larkin, Ilana Kloss, Katrina Adams, Stacey Allaster and Carillo.
Making her acceptance speech, Evert turned the focus back on to Casals, who was a two-time US Open singles finalist and won 12 Grand Slam titles in doubles and mixed. “Rosie is in the trenches with these kids,” Evert observed. “This isn’t about name only. She’s out there, practicing, really working with them, giving them advice, hopefully teaching them her kick serve.
“I played a lot of doubles with Rosie and we did have a lot of fun and she did scream a lot at me,” she joked. “To get to the net, to get my first serve in – I started wearing cotton balls because we didn’t have earphones in those days. But on a serious note, Rosie, it’s really great that you are doing this and we applaud your compassion and your generosity.”
In addition, the Vicki Berner Heart & Spirit Award was presented to local Desert Hot Springs High School senior and school tennis captain Eduardo Contreras. This award, now in its second year, recognizes a boy or girl who has displayed leadership qualities and shown Heart & Spirit in competition.
Live and silent auctions were held, with prizes ranging from tennis memorabilia to once-in-a-lifetime tennis experiences. Adding to the fundraising tally, the WTA’s Ann Austin presented Casals and Fretz with a cheque for $5,000, as a contribution from WTA Charities.
“Both Tory and I are very appreciative of this donation and will put it to good use,” said Casals. “The foundation is working hard to spread tennis to all the kids who live in the Coachella Valley and want to learn how to play tennis. Our work and dedication is unwavering and we hope to be able to grow our youth programs. It is nice to be acknowledged in this way for what we are doing for tennis in our community.”
Other special guests on the evening included WTA legends Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Tracy Austin and Peaches Bartkowicz, as well as Todd Martin, CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and men’s tennis great Charlie Pasarell.
The Annalee Thurston Award was established in 2011 as a way to honor a tennis marketing pioneer who passed away in 2007 of a brain aneurysm. The Annalee Thurston Scholarship Fund for women in sports and business was created at the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon; in 2017 the Annalee Memorial Scholarship Fund was fully endowed and in 2018 the Love & Love Tennis Foundation became the beneficiary of the Annalee Thurston Award Reception.