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Happy Birthday Pancho Gonzalez by Richard Pagliaro

Passion, pride and a powerful all-court game poured from Pancho Gonzalez like perspiration every time he stepped on court.

Richard Alonzo “Pancho” Gonzalez is undoubtedly the greatest self-taught tennis player of all time and one of the greatest “big match” champions in history.

Born on May 9, 1928 in Los Angeles as one of seven children raised during the depression, Gonzalez grew into one of the fiercest competitors the sport has ever seen.

To celebrate Pancho’s 90th birthday today, we look back on the glorious career of a tennis colossus.

Sons Richard and Danny and nephew Greg Gonzalez spent time with the 10sBalls.com team at Indian Wells in March discussing Pancho’s life, legacy and his Foundation. : http://panchofoundation.org/


Read their thoughts here http://www.10sballs.com/?p=819758


Emerging from the public park courts of Exposition Park in Los Angeles armed with a wood racquet his mother bought him when he was 12 years old; the son of Mexican immigrants was a self-taught player who never took a formal tennis lesson in his life.

Yet, the graceful Gonzalez owned the smooth strokes and tremendous tactical acumen of a “Tennis PhD”, who deconstructed convention and formulated his own solutions.

Gonzalez was so highly respected by opponents; he remains the only champion inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame while still an active player.

While some opponents claimed he carried a chip on his shoulder as massive as the hot-rod engines he worked on in his spare time, Gonzalez took some of the prejudice and slights he absorbed as a young player and turned it into fuel to drive a career of crowning achievement and longevity.

Gonzalez also had a soft spot in his heart for kids.

Perhaps recalling feuds with his father who initially discouraged his son from playing tennis and occasionally snapped his wood racquets, Gonzalez often hit with ball kids, encouraged juniors in their tennis pursuits and advocated tennis as a lifetime sport.

His landmark instructional book titled “Tennis” bears a dedication from Gonzalez to  “the youth of America—in an endeavor to help them achieve happiness in a noble way of life through a clean, healthy, wholesome activity.”

Fittingly, the man who owned one of the most iconic serves in the sport’s history continues to serve through his legacy.

Pancho Gonzalez’s family continues to honor his legacy through their work with the Richard “Pancho” Gonzalez Youth Foundation in L.A. that provides after school educational programs, tennis clinics and vocational instruction.

The Foundation’s mission statement is “providing the underserved and other youth the opportunity to play tennis and learn.”

“Grand Slam King”, Roger Federer made history earlier this year at the age of 36 becoming the oldest ATP world No. 1 in history – a truly remarkable record.

Consider Gonzalez’s mind-blowing feat of defeating Rod Laver in the 1970 winner-take-all match at Madison Square Garden at age 42—a year after the Rocket swept the Grand Slam for the second time.

Two years later, Gonzalez captured the 1972 Des Moines title at age 44—he remains the oldest man to win an ATP singles title in history.

A true tennis giant, who served as both a coach and television analyst in his later years.

“He’d love it—and he’d love the challenge of facing today’s champions,” said son Danny Gonzalez, who still teaches tennis 30 hours a week. “If you gave my father the racquet and string technology today’s players have he’d do things with the ball you’ve never seen.”

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