Biofile: Pancho Segura Interview

By Scoop Malinowski
Status: Tennis Hall of Famer. Won the U.S. Pro Championships in 1950 (d. Kovacs), 1951 & 1952 (d. Gonzalez).
Ht: 5-6 Wt: 160
DOB: June 20, 1921 in Guayaquil, Ecuador
First Tennis Memory: Somebody gave me his racquet. And I always watched. And I held it with two hands. I was seven-years-old. And I played against the wall. I loved it. I learned to hit the ball on the rise. I never let the ball come to me, I went to the ball. Except when returning first serve. Then you have to let the ball come in if your serve is 120 miles per hour.
Tennis Heroes: Well, I admired Jack Kramer because he could serve and volley. And he never lost a set. He always won 64, 75, 86. In my day there was no tiebreak. So if you lost your serve you were dead with Kramer. That’s the way you played the game – aggressively. Aggressive when you’re in front, conservative when you were down.
Favorite Meal: I eat everything in sight.
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: Vanilla.
Pre-Match Feeling: Think about how am I gonna hold serve.
Last Book Read: Bill Tilden. BT. The great player. He didn’t believe players should play with both hands. He was a controversial writer.
Greatest Sports Moment: Beating Pancho Gonzalez 62 62 62 in 1952 in Forest Hills on grass.
Most Painful Moment: Losing Santa Barbara to Kramer after having a 5-0 lead in the first set. And I couldn’t sleep. And losing to Kramer in Wimbledon in 1950.
Favorite Tournaments: Australia. And all the Grand Slams. Because it’s three out of five. It’s a test of tennis and conditioning. Several tests of the game.
Which Matches Were You At Your Very Best: Beating Gonzalez, beating Sedgman and beating Rosewall on grass. Winning always gives you confidence and you have a happy ending. When you lose – I hated myself. I was a tough competitor. I hated to lose.
Funny Tennis Memory: Trying to date Shirley Temple in 1947 [laughs]. At Forest Hills. I didn’t have any money, no wheels, nothing. And going around with Ava Gardner, it was fun.
Embarrassing Tennis Memory: Nothing, not having a dime, you’re broke. And having to turn pro for $300 a week in 1946, ’47.
Favorite Players To Watch: Unquestionably, Roger Federer. Because he’s a complete player. Nadal – because he gives 100% on every shot. Like my pupil Jimmy Connors, they’re both left-handed. He’s got speed, he’s got everything. He could come in on return of serve. You never see Nadal attack the serve and take the net away. The man who can beat him – Juan Martin Del Potro. He’s got potential. He’s 6-6, he’s got a huge first serve, a huge seccond serve. He’s got everything but physical conditioning. I don’t know if he can go five sets day in, day out. Del Potro is gonna be better than Murray because he has a better serve. He’s bigger. He’s gotta work on his conditioning and serve more first serves. Attack second serves. Every second serve, Del Potro should cream it. What counts in tennis is who makes the first shot tougher. If you can do it when you serve or return, you got it made.
Funniest Player Encountered: Carl Erne. He looks like Danny Thomas. Frank Kovacs. Pancho Segura [smiles].
Closest Tennis Friends: Pancho Gonzalez, Kenny Rosewall, the Australians – they’re all good people.
People Qualities Most Admired: Generous. Respect for another citizen. And help the unfortunate. Don’t just give them money and everything, help them. Help their standard of living. Give opportunity to them, people who deserve it.
Career Accomplishments: At Miami University won U.S. Intercollegiate singles in 1943, 1944 and 1945; Won U.S. Indoor title in 1946 and U.S. Clay Court title in 1944; Elected to Hall of Fame in 1984.
Scoop’s book Facing McEnroe, a compilation of interviews with players about playing against John McEnroe, is available at amazon for $9.99. His next book Facing Sampras will be published in early 2018.


  • Hartt · November 20, 2017 at 10:30 am

    Just learned that Pancho Segura died. Thanks for the Biofile.

  • Thomas Tung · November 20, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    Panchito died? I’m very sorry to hear that — I greatly enjoyed reading and learning about him, mostly through that great book, “Little Pancho”.

    In related news, I just heard that Jana Novotna passed away from cancer as well. Two greats of the game gone.

    Novotna, alongside Hingis, Sanchez-Vicario, Tauziat, and Graf, were some of my favorite female tennis players of the mid/late 1990s.

    They will be missed!

  • catherine · November 21, 2017 at 1:45 am

    Thomas – more about Novotna further down. The others, thank heavens, are still with us, if no longer playing.

  • catherine · November 21, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Out of the frying pan into the fire for Sharapova – she’s now been named in a fraud case in India to do with a housing complex.
    Some of these celebrities maybe should be more careful about endorsing projects and products which could turn out to be dodgy and about which they’re unlikely to have expertise. Sharapova – housing ? Seems if you endorse something you can be held liable – not that I know anything about the law there.

    Maybe Maria’s forgotten she’s a tennis player.

  • Hartt · November 21, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    What next in the ongoing Sharapova drama?

  • catherine · November 21, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Well, it’ll keep us interested in the off season. Comment dries up as soon as the last tournament’s over – see you again in Melbourne :)

    Meeting in London of GS bigwigs – agreeing matters such as stop clocks and warm-up times and penalties for dropping out ‘injured’ in the 1st round. And back to 16 seeds in 2019. Not sure if this all has to go to the ITF now or if it’s confirmed.

  • Hartt · November 21, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    I got the impression that these new rules are a go, some of them will be implemented at the 2018 AO. Apparently it came as a surprise that the ITF is moving so quickly.

  • catherine · November 21, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    Yes, I think you’re right. It’s only the number of seeds which is put off a year.

    Maybe the tv companies gave the ITF a nudge – everyone seems frantic about pushing tennis on tv now and doing what tv wants.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 21, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Hartt; Next in the Sharapova Drama show? … Pregnant by another player – beats Serena 61 61 in Aus Open final – starts her own perfume brand – Hires Hingis as new coach – Hires Andrew Miller as her new physio and backhand guru :) – Plays McEnroe in Battle of the Sexes – Becomes the latest accuser of Harvey Weinstein :)

  • Dan Markowitz · November 21, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    I’ll never forget when I met Pancho Segura in Indian Wells after watching Spadea lose to Hernych when we started writing Break Point. I was walking back with Spadea to the locker room and Segura scurried up and told Vince he should’ve won the match, and then he told me when Vince walked off that Spadea’s career took a major downturn when he lost to Chang at the US Open when he was up two sets to one and was serving for the match. Segura said that match sealed Spadea’s fate of never being a top player.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 21, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    And it turned out Segura was right. Certain losses like that are career killers and I remember watching that match and Spadea serving to beat Chang night match at US Open and he blew it. Devastating loss. If Spadea was more of a ruthless killer he would have won that. I also feel Baghdatis losing to Agassi at US Open was a similar career killer for Bag, he never did threaten at a major again. Mathieu losing to Youzhny in the Davis Cup final up two sets to love 4-4 in the third was another career crusher. Segura was a straight honest shooter, interesting that he ran up to Vince to tell him something so negative — and not inspirational?

  • catherine · November 21, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    Which makes Novotna’s achievement in persevering and coming back to win W’don in ’98 after her loss to Steffi three years earlier even more remarkable.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 21, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Catherine, what were the details of Novotna's loss to Graf? She blew match points, right? I remember it was a flagrant choke.

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 21, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    Shazza continues to be an embarrassment to herself. But seems like her sponsors haven’t bailed.

    I wish she was more hated like a Lance Armstrong since tennis needs some villains and she is great at the role.

    I am on her side a bit because both of us were snubbed from attending Serena’s wedding!

  • catherine · November 22, 2017 at 2:23 am

    Duke – I think Maria’s sponsors might bail if she ends up in an Indian prison – but she’d get a book out of it I’ve no doubt :)

    Scoop – in THAT match : Novotna led Graf 6-7 6-1 4-1 and 40-30 and had a point for 5-1, then df and the match was over in about 10 mins. I think a lot of people were weeping along with Jana. And there was so much astonishment and sympathy when the Duchess comforted her that Steffi must have felt she herself had actually lost the title, not won it.

    It’s funny, after all these years and all the Wimbledon women’s finals since, this is the one which is probably remembered most vividly by anyone who saw it. Iconic indeed. And as Ivan Lendl said about Jana, so many players would never have come back from that.

    Novotna had a beautiful serve, a lovely game. Oh where oh where has all that gone ?

  • catherine · November 22, 2017 at 8:12 am

    There’s a guy in Scotland called Andy Jackson who writes twitter length obituaries and he’s done a nice one for Jana. Sorry I can’t link. if you want to look.



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