1940s1950s1960s1970sHighlightsL E StoriesPancho GonzalesRod LaverSpecialsTennisUS ChampionshipsVideos

L E’s Stories – “A Gigantic Serve And Tremendous Groundstrokes” – My Tribute To Tennis Legend Pancho Gonzales

When Bone Daddy was growing up in West Texas with Pops and his two brothers, Little Wally and Runt….while considering that Pops used sports as primary teaching tools of life’s lesson during Los Tres Hermanos (the three brothers) upbringing….and tennis was one of the one of those sports that they all could play together….even when the boys were small….cuz Pops loved the game of tennis, to play, to watch and for exercise….as Pops would carry his tennis racquet with him wherever he would go as a commercial pilot for 40 years…..and go to the courts and find another single player to hit with or play a match…. and when there was no such person….he’d spend hours just hitting against the boards, which were common at tennis courts all over America. This kind of interest in tennis almost insured that whenever tennis would be on TV…..even in the days of black & white television with rabbit ears antenna…..Pops and Los Tres Hermanos grew up with players like Jack Kramer, Pancho Gonzales, Bill Tilden, Roy Emerson,  Arthur Ashe, Rod Laver, John Newcombe, Ken Rosewall, Tony Roche et al….and Pancho was the family favorite….therefore, it is only fitting that I post this tribute to truly one of the greatest players of all time…..Pancho Gonzales….who  was a ruthless competitor with a fierce temper….as many of his peers on the professional circuit were intimidated by him…..when he was often at odds with officials and promoters. However, he was a fan favorite who drew more spectators than any other player of his time…. cuz Pancho Gonzales was like fire on the court….as evidenced by the videos we share herewith.                                                                                                                                                                                             

Tennis 1949 To 1974 – PBS Special – Pancho Gonzales: The Latino Legend Of The Tennis Court – As Told By Robert Redford & Jimmy Connors & Serena + Venus Williams

                                                                                                                                                                                    Pancho won 14 major singles titles (12 Pro Slam, 2 Grand Slam) and was the dominant professional of the 1950’s….while winning seven world professional championship tours between 1954 and 1961….as he still holds the men’s all-time record of being ranked world # 1 for eight years (1952, 1954 to 1960) or eight consecutive years (1954 to 1961), depending upon the rankings source.  From 1951 to 1953, Gonzales was in semi-retirement. He bought the tennis shop at Exposition Park and ran that while playing in short tours and occasional professional tournaments throughout the world. In spite of his infrequent play….and because first Riggs, then Kramer, as promoters of the pro tour, didn’t want him as the headliner of their tours…..he had nevertheless raised his game to a higher level than before and was winning most of his matches.                                                                                                                                                                        

Tennis -1952 – AP Newsreel Special Feature – Highlights Of Pro Tennis Match Between Jack Kramer Vs Pancho Gonzales

                                                                                                                                                                                    In late 1953, Kramer, then a temporarily retired player (due to his back troubles), signed Gonzales (a seven-year contract) to play in a 1954 US tour also featuring Pancho Segura, Frank Sedgman, and Donald Budge (the latter being replaced in March 1954 by Carl Earn for the last weeks of the tour). In the subsequent matches Gonzales beat Segura 30–21 and Sedgman by the same score. After this tour, Gonzales won the Cleveland World Pro held at the Cleveland Arena from April 27 through May 2 and where all the best, except Pails, were present.  Gonzales was awarded the Pilsner of Cleveland Trophy for his victory at Cleveland.  In early June 1954, Gonzales won the U.S. Professional Championships held by Jack Kramer at the Los Angeles Tennis Club in California. Gonzales was seeded # 1 and defeated both Sedgman and Segura, the latter in a close five set final to win the USPLTA Benrus Trophy.                              

Tennis – 1949 To 1974 – Special Film By Gino Tanasescu – “Pancho” – The Life And Career Of Pancho Gonzales

By 1955, Gonzales was the dominant player in the men’s game and over the subsequent years, beat such tennis greats as Frank Sedgman, Francisco Segura, Tony TrabertKen RosewallLew Hoad in world championship tours….when in 1955-56, Gonzales beat Tony Trabert in the World series by 74 matches to 27. Forty years after his matches with Gonzales, Trabert told interviewer Joe McCauley “that Gonzales’s serve was the telling factor on their tour — it was so good that it earned him many cheap points.”  The following year, Gonzales won the 1957 Forest Hills Tournament of Champions with a perfect 5-0 record, beating Sedgman in a five-set deciding match. The event was broadcast nationally on CBS television. Gonzales also won the Cleveland tournament, beating Trabert and Segura, and the Los Angeles Masters tournament.                                                                                                                                                                  

Tennis – 1969 – Rare 16 mm Footage Of Tennis HOF Richard Pancho Gonzales Practicing With A New Metal-Framed Racquet

                                                                                                                                                                                      The most difficult challenge that Gonzales faced during his dominant years came from Lew Hoad, the powerful young Australian who had won four Grand Slam titles as an amateur. In the 1958 tour, Gonzales and Hoad in his rookie year, played head-to-head 87 times. Hoad won the Australian series 8 to 5, and 18 of the first 27 matches. It appeared that he was about to displace Gonzales as the professional world champion. Gonzales, however, revamped and improved his backhand.  Gonzales won the 1958 series by a margin of 51 wins to 36 wins for Hoad. Also, Hoad suffered back trouble beginning in early March which reduced his ability to play at a high level and contributed to a turnaround in results on the tour.                        

Tennis – 1961 – Exhibition Matches At Madison Square Garden – Featuring Lew Hoad Vs Pancho Gonzales & Olmedo Vs McKay

                                                                                                                                                                                      In January, Gonzales finished third in the Kooyong Tournament of Champions, the richest tournament of the year, losing his match to Hoad. In May, he beat Hoad in the final at the Cleveland U.S. Pro, also known by its sponsored name Pilsner of Cleveland World Pro Tennis Championships, or Cleveland World Pro. Gonzales came from two sets down to win in five sets as Hoad’s leg injury worsened. Gonzales received his record sixth Pilsner of Cleveland Trophy award for the victory. Gonzales won the 1958 Forest Hills Tournament of Champions, nationally broadcast on CBS television, with a 5–1 record. He lost to Hoad in the semifinal at the Roland Garros World Professional Championships. Gonzales lost to Sedgman in the semifinal at the Wembley Indoor Championships, and had earlier lost to him in the semifinal of the Sydney Masters.  Hoad was Gonzales’ toughest opponent on grass, with Hoad holding a 20 to 14 (59%) lifetime edge on grass against Gonzales, although Gonzales held a lifetime head-to-head edge against Rosewall on grass of 24 to 14 (63%). Gonzales held a lifetime edge over Hoad overall at 104–77 (57%), with edges on clay, hard and all indoor surfaces. Gonzales’ lifetime edge over Rosewall on all surfaces was 116–85 (60%) In outdoor play (grass, clay, cement) Gonzales held a 36 to 31 edge on Hoad, or about 53%. In head-to-head world championship tours, Gonzales led Hoad 64 to 51 (56%), and led Rosewall 70 to 31 (70%).                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Tennis – 1957 – Special -Highlights Of Ken Rosewall First Professional Match Vs Pancho Gonzales

                                                                                                                                                                            Gonzales faced Rosewall, Segura and new pro signing Alex Olmedo on the 1960 World series tour (Trabert also played a few matches early on). Gonzales was at the peak of his form, beating Rosewall 20-5 and easily overcoming Segura and Olmedo. During a match against Segura at White Plains on February 13, 1960, Gonzales served 33 aces.  The 1961 World series would not feature Rosewall, who opted not to play. Gonzales beat Andres Gimeno, Trabert (replacing Hoad), Sedgman (also replacing Hoad), Hoad (who withdrew with a broken foot), Barry MacKay, Olmedo and Butch Buchholz. The top two players, Gonzales and Gimeno then played a head-to-head series to determine the champion. Gonzales beat Gimeno 21 match wins to 7, in single-set matches.                                                                                                                   

Tennis – 1967 – Rare Silent 16mm Footage Of Rod Laver Vs Pancho Gonzales Playing A Match On Grass

                                                                                                                                                                            Gonzales didn’t play on the pro circuit at all in 1962…..but returned to play on the pro circuit in 1964. By now, Rod Laver had arrived in the pro ranks. Jack Kramer, the long-time tennis promoter, wrote that although Laver was “absolutely unbeatable for a year or two late in the 1960s”, a “careful comparison” could be made between Laver and the somewhat older Gonzales and that Kramer is “positive that Gonzales could have beaten Laver regularly.”…..as Kramer sees as evidence of Gonzales’s superiority over Laver the fact that Gonzales defeated Laver in a US $10,000 winner-take-all, five-set match before 14,761 spectators in New York’s Madison Square Garden in January 1970….when Gonzales was 41 years old and Laver was still considered the world No. 1 player….but on the other hand, Gonzales was still a top ten player when this match occurred….and Laver subsequently won the tournament event played there, beating Gonzales in a straight sets semifinal.                                                                                                          

Tennis – 1970 – Highlights Of $10,000 Winner Take All Match – Rod Laver Vs Pancho Conzales

                                                                                                                                                                            During the span of seven years that they faced each other, Laver was 26–32 and Gonzales was 36–42 years old. While the peak of Laver was in the late 1960’s, the peak of Gonzales was in the middle 1950’s. Gonzales had a great longevity that made possible this rivalry. However, the overall record could be biased in favor of Laver because of the difference of ten years between them. For the 1964 season, Gonzales held a head-to-head edge over Laver.  In early May, 1964, Gonzales defeated Gimeno and Anderson to win the Cleveland World Pro, his ninth Cleveland title.  Arguably Gonzales’ best tournament victory of 1964 came in late May at the U.S. Pro Indoors at White Plains. After coming from a set down to beat both Laver and Hoad earlier in the event, Gonzales trailed Rosewall in the best of five set final by 2 sets to 0 and 1–4. Trailing by two service breaks in the third set, Gonzales managed to turn the match around and won in five sets in a final that lasted 3 hours and 11 minutes.                                                              

Tennis – 1949 To 1974 – Special – A Photo Collection Of The Career Of Pancho Gonzales

                                                                                                                                                                                    In his professional career, Gonzales won the United States Professional Championship eight times, including the USPLTA version in L.A. in 1954…..and the Cleveland World Pro another seven times (Gonzales won the Cleveland event nine times)…..the Wembley professional title in London four times…. and the Tournament of Champions three times (1957 Forest Hills, 1958 Forest Hills, 1959 Sydney White City)….the Los Angeles Masters three times (1956, 1957, 1959)….the U.S. Professional Indoor three times (1950 Philadelphia, 1952 Philadelphia, 1964 White Plains)….plus beating, in seven head-to-head pro tours, all of the best amateurs who turned pro.  During this time Pancho Gonzales was known for his fiery will to win, his cannonball serve and his all-conquering net game….which was a combination so potent that the rules on the professional tour were briefly changed to prohibit him from advancing to the net immediately after serving. Under the new rules, the returned serve had to bounce before the server could make his own first shot, thereby keeping Gonzales from playing his usual serve-and-volley game….but he won even so….and the rules were changed back. So great was Pancho Gonzales’ ability to raise his game to the highest possible level, particularly in the fifth set of long matches….as tennis journalist Allen Fox has said that he never once saw Gonzales lose service when serving for the set or the match.                                 

Tennis – 1974 – Special – Highlights Of Pancho Gonzales’ Serve – Considered The Best Serve Of All Time

                                                                                                                                                                              Most of Gonzales’s career as a professional took place before the start of the Open era of tennis….and he was therefore ineligible to compete at the Grand Slam events between the end of 1949 (when he turned pro) and the start of the open era in April 1968.  As has been observed about other great players such as Rod Laver, Gonzales almost certainly would have won a number of additional Grand Slam titles had he been permitted to compete in those tournaments during that 18-year period. Jack Kramer, for instance, has speculated in an article about the theoretical champions of Forest Hills and Wimbledon that Gonzales would have won an additional 12 titles in those two tournaments alone.  In April 1968, he was the first professional to lose to an amateur, the British player Mark Cox. The then-24-year-old Cox beat Gonzales at the British Hard Court Championships at Bournemouth, in five sets in two and a quarter hours.  The first major open tournament was the 1968 French Open, when Gonzales had just turned 40. In spite of the fact that he had been semi-retired for a number of years and that the tournament was held on slow clay courts that penalize serve-and-volley players, Gonzales beat the 1967 defending champion Roy Emerson in the quarterfinals. He then lost in the semifinals to Rod Laver. He lost in the third round of 1968 Wimbledon but later beat the second-seeded Tony Roche in the fourth round of the 1968 US Open, before losing an epic match to the Dutch Tom Okker.                                                                                      

Tennis – 1969 – Forrest Hills Men’s Singles Final Highlights – Tony Roche Vs Pancho Gonzales

                                                                                                                                                                                      In 1969, it was Gonzales’s turn to prevail in the longest match ever played till that time, one so long and arduous that it resulted in the advent of tie break scoring. As a 41-year-old at Wimbledon, Gonzales met Charlie Pasarell, a Puerto Rican younger than Gonzales by 16 years who revered his opponent. Pasarell won a lengthy 46-game first set, then with daylight fading, the 41-year-old Gonzales argued that the match should be suspended. The referee didn’t relent, and the petulant Gonzales virtually threw the second set. At the break, the referee agreed the players should stop. Gonzales was booed as he walked off Centre Court.  The next day, the serves, the volleys and all the prowess that made Gonzales a fiery competitor surfaced. Pasarell, seeking to exploit Gonzales’s advanced years, tried to aim soft service returns at Gonzales’s feet and tire him with frequent lobs. Gonzales rebounded to win three straight sets. In the fifth set, Gonzales saved all seven match points that Pasarell had against him, twice coming back from 0–40 deficits, to walk off the court the eventual winner in a 5-hour, 12-minute match. The final score was 22–24, 1–6, 16–14, 6–3, 11–9. Gonzales went on to the fourth round of the championship, where he was beaten in four sets by Arthur Ashe. The match with Pasarell, however, is still remembered as one of the highlights in the history of tennis and has been called one of “The Ten Greatest Matches of the Open Era” in the November/December 2003 issue of TENNIS magazine.  But it was not this match alone which gave Gonzales the reputation, among the top players, of being the greatest long-match player in the history of the game. The match would (largely due to the introduction of the tie break) remain the longest in terms of games played until the 11 hours and 183 games long Isner–Mahut match at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships.

 

Tennis – 1969 – Wimbledon Men’s Finals – Pancho Gonzales Vs Charlie Pasarell – In The Longest Wimbledon Match In History

In late 1969, Gonzales won the Howard Hughes Open in Las Vegas and the Pacific Southwest Open in Los Angeles, beating, among others, John Newcombe, Ken Rosewall, Stan Smith (twice), Cliff Richey, and Arthur Ashe. He was the top American money-winner for 1969 with $46,288…..as Pancho continued to play in the occasional tournament into his 40’s…..when he could also occasionally beat the clear # 1 player in the world, Rod Laver. Their most famous meeting was a $10,000 winner-take-all match before a crowd of 14,761 in Madison Square Garden in January 1970…..which came just after the Australian had completed a calendar-year sweep of the Grand Slams….when the 41-year-old Gonzales beat Laver in five sets…..and in spite of the fact that Gonzales was still known as a serve-and-volley player, in 1971, when he was 43 and Jimmy Connors was 19….that’s when he beat the great young baseliner by playing him from the baseline at the Pacific Southwest Open.                                                                                                        

Tennis – 1969 – Special Highlights – The Great Serve By Pancho Gonzales

                                                                                                                                                                            Gonzales was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame at Newport in 1968….and by that time, Pops and Los Tres Hermanos had played thousands of tennis matches with and against each other, as lil brother Runt was earning his last of three letters in high school tennis as Midland High School’s # 1 player…..for Pancho Gonzales had been an “arm’s length” contributor to Runt’s success.                                 

Tennis – 1964 – Golden Racquet Tennis Championship Finals – Lew Hoad Vs Pancho Gonzales

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button