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Before Federer & Djokovic, Before McEnroe & Connors, There Were 2 Panchos

With the 2012 U.S. Open tennis only days away, excitement builds. Despite Rafael Nadal’s injuries and withdrawal from Flushing Meadows, tennis is in a golden era. The historic rivalry between Roger and Rafa is among the most storied in the game’s history. And then came Novak Djokovic’s dramatic rise in 2011.

But before Federer and Djovokic, before Sampras and Agassi and before McEnroe and Connors, there were two tennis legends who helped create the modern game, and both were named Pancho (Gonzalez and Segura). Their tumultuous friendship lasted 45 years. As recounted in Cy Rice's Man with a Racket, when Gonzalez was asked what he liked about the pro tour, he replied, "Segura and the money."

The two couldn’t have been more different.

Francisco Olegario Segura was born in 1921 in the impoverished seaport village of Guayaquil, Ecuador. Before he was 10, he suffered from malaria and rickets which left him permanently bow-legged. He came by Pancho naturally, however, as it was a nickname for Francisco.

Richard Alonso Gonzalez was born in 1928 in working-class Los Angeles. At age seven, he suffered a horrific gash in the face from the door handle of a passing car, which left him with a prominent scar. He came by Pancho unnaturally, as it was the name many Caucasians derisively gave to all Mexicans.


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