Tennis player Juan Carlos Isla, whose name is now synonymous with the game of tennis, died Sunday at age 44 after battling a rare form of cancer, his brother told ESPN.
Isla was a longtime friend of tennis great Billie Jean King and brother of former tennis star Billie Joe Armstrong, who died of the disease in 2001, according to the family.
Isla was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a rare and aggressive form of leukemia, in 2010 and underwent chemotherapy in July 2012.
He has a strong family history of leukemia and was treated in-patient at the University of Southern California (USC) Los Angeles Memorial Hospital for the treatment of the illness, according the Isla family.
“He was a true champion,” Armstrong said in a statement.
“I will always remember him as a fighter, who was always there to lend a hand when others could not or would not, and I am grateful for all he has done to help others, especially his family.
We are all deeply saddened by this loss.”
“He fought for the people he loved, and that will never be forgotten,” Armstrong’s brother, David Isla said.
“The cancer that was a threat to his life was removed, and now his brother can live a normal life in a comfortable retirement.”
Islas was diagnosed on June 24, 2020, and underwent the chemotherapy in Los Angeles.
He returned to the court in January 2021, and in June 2022 he retired from professional tennis and was placed on life support.
Isla played with King, Armstrong and other top tennis players from the late ’70s through the early ’80s.
Armstrong played with Isla on the U.S. Open tour and was inducted into the US Tennis Hall of Fame in 2016.
Islas had a career of nearly 500 matches, including four Grand Slam titles and five singles titles, including a record-breaking fifth singles Grand Slam title in 1995, according a biography of him published by Tennis Magazine.
He also played for several other greats, including Roger Federer, Juan Martin del Potro, Alexander Zverev, Rafael Nadal and Rafael Nadala.
Islas was inductee into the Hall of Legends in 1997, but he did not play a match in the Hall.
A lifelong fan, Isla had a strong social media presence and was known for his colorful photos of himself with celebrities and friends.
“Juan was one of the most beloved and respected athletes in history and a tremendous human being,” said Armstrong.
“He was loved by the people of Los Angeles and beyond, and we will forever miss him.”
He was preceded in death by his brother David, his grandmother and his stepmother.