For our sixth annual Heroes Issue, we’ve selected passages from the last 50 years of Tennis Magazine and TENNIS.com—starting in 1969 and ending in 2018—to highlight 50 worthy heroes. Each passage acknowledges the person as they were then; each subsequent story catches up with the person, or highlights their impact, as they are now. It is best summed up with a quote from the great Arthur Ashe, that was featured on the cover of the November/December issue of this magazine in 2015: “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”
The Oracle founder and current sixth richest man in the world is also a real live tennis fan. Ellison is so much of a fan, in fact, that two nights ago he ventured out of the main arena, away from its luxury boxes and hospitality suites, and took his place among the Southern California masses to watch tennis on Stadium 2. What brought him all the way over there? Rafael Nadal, mainly—Ellison is a Rafa fan. But what Ellison ended up seeing and enjoying as much as everyone else in the house wasn’t Nadal in a showdown with Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic, but a third-round doubles match. — Peter Bodo / March 2012
Rafael Nadal calls the BNP Paribas Open the best two weeks of his year. For that, the superstar Spaniard has Larry Ellison to thank. Not only does Nadal stay at Ellison’s 249-acre Indian Wells estate during the tournament, but he’s a beneficiary—along with the rest of the world’s top players—of the over $100 million Ellison has funneled into the event since purchasing it in 2009.
Ellison, the 74-year-old co-founder, executive chairman and chief technology officer of the software company Oracle, picked up tennis in the mid-2000s after finding basketball too hard on his body. Fueled by a love of the game and the desire to improve the quality of American tennis, Ellison has made the BNP Paribas Open a destination on par with any of the four majors.
But Ellison has gone beyond Indian Wells to help the American game. He spearheaded the launch of the Oracle Challenger Series, which has grown into a four-city mini-tour with the opportunity for American men and women to win BNP Paribas Open wild cards. He also greenlit the Oracle US Tennis Awards—$100,00 grants given to pro tour-bound college players to help ease the financial transition. Danielle Collins and Mackenzie McDonald recieved the inaugural awards in 2017.
As former Indian Wells tournament director Charlie Pasarell said, “Boy, was tennis lucky to find Larry Ellison.”