Barbra I. Higgins on Rosie Casals

“Pure. Tennis. Genuis.”

"Five foot two (and a quarter) of pure tennis genius"-- that's how Olympian Barbra I. Higgins describes tennis Grand Slam Champion Rosie Casals. Born in San Francisco to immigrant parents from El Salvador, Rosie Casals had an unlikely start in the world of tennis. Taught by her great-uncle and longtime coach on the public courts of San Francisco, Casals became a dominant force on the tennis court and began winning championships in her teens. Although she was shorter and (by her own accounts) poorer than her fellow tennis players, she blasted past every barrier to become an absolute tennis legend. At age 17 she was hand-selected by Billie Jean King to be her doubles partner, and the pair went on to win five subsequent Grand Slam Championships. She won 12 Grand Slam tournaments, 112 doubles championships, and was once ranked the #3 tennis player in the U.S. Watch as Olympic Fencer Barbra I. Higgins recaps Rosie Casals' stunning career which inspired her and countless other Latina athletes around the world.

Our storytellers share these astonishing women with us conversationally and unscripted; we fact-check afterwards and note any major discrepancies for accuracy.


Barbra I. Higgins, OLY

Barbra I. Higgins is an Olympic fencer from Panama. She has over thirty-five years experience in leading small businesses in growth by utilizing the tools she acquired while at PriceWaterhouse and years of experience to analyze, create, and manage internal operating procedures in order to maintain consistent fiscal stability. She has experience at raising capital, managing companies and organizing large international events. Ms. Higgins’ community involvement includes her Presidential appointment to the Small Business Administration National Advisory Council, Board member and Corporate Secretary of the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame (BASHOF), Board member and Treasurer of Northern California Olympians Alumni Association, President of Panama Olympians Assoc., board member of Look What SHE Did!, and as a 1984 Olympian is a motivational guest speaker for schools and community groups. She has a law degree from the University of Miami and Bachelors in Business Administration and Accounting from Florida International University and received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Tiffin University Ohio.

Featured Woman

Rosie Casals

Tennis champion Rosemary Casals was born in 1948 in San Francisco to parents from El Salvador. Casals earned her reputation as a rebel in the tennis world when she began competing in the early 1960s. During a tennis career that spanned more than two decades, she won more than 90 titles and was crucial to many of the changes in women’s tennis during the 1960s and 1970s. Casals began playing tennis as a child on the public tennis courts of San Francisco, taught by her first and only tennis coach, her great-uncle Manuel Casals. By age 16 Casals was the top junior and women’s level player in northern California. At 17 she was ranked eleventh in the country and was earning standing ovations for her aggressive playing style. At five-feet-two-inches tall, she was one of the shortest players on the court. She navigated the challenge of being from an immigrant family with modest means in a sport that was traditionally for society’s upper class. “The other kids had nice tennis clothes, nice rackets, nice white shoes, and came in Cadillacs,” Casals told a reporter for People. “I felt stigmatized because we were poor.” In 1966 she and Billie Jean King, her doubles partner, won the U.S. hard-court and indoor tournaments. That same year they reached the quarter-finals in the women’s doubles at Wimbledon. In 1967 Casals and King took the doubles crown at Wimbledon and at the United States and South African championships. The two dominated women’s doubles play for years, becoming one of the most successful duos in tennis history. Casals was also a successful individual player, ranking third among U.S. women during this period. Casals won 112 professional doubles tournaments, the second most in history behind Martina Navratilova. Her last doubles championship was at the 1988 tournament in Oakland, California, where her partner was Navratilova. She has been inducted into the International Tennis Hall of fame…twice.