Re: "The Lone Wolf": Richard "Pancho" Gonzales
His main rivals? It depends upon which decade you speak of. In the 1950s/ 60s some of his primary rivals were Kramer, Hoad, Trabert, Olmedo, Rosewall, Laver and others...and what's odd is that all but one of those players won more slams than he, yet he had winning records over all of them.
Here are a few highlights from writer Juius D. Heldman in an article from World Tennis magazine entitled "The Style of Pancho Gonzales" from around 1960:
"It is my belief that Pancho Gonzales is the most natural player who ever lived. He never had a tennis lesson and he had almost no tournament competition during his formative years. When he dropped out of school in the tenth grade, the Southern California Tennis Association did not permit him to play junior tournaments (due to his scholarly status). He was 19 when he played his first big event, which was the Southern California Championships...two months later, Pancho went back East to play the clay and grass court circuit. His play was spotty, but he managed to earn a No. 17 ranking. The following year, 1948, he was No. 1 in the country (winning) Forest Hills. The next year he again won the Nationals, defeating his old nemesis, Ted Schroeder. He turned professional a few months later (while still being) far from a finished player [After one year on the pro circuit] Gonzales became World Champion. He beat Trabert, Sedgman, Segura, Rosewall, Hoad and Olmedo [on successive tours]...
The Gonzales game has always been admired by every top player. He has no critics. He is universally recognized as a great stylist, a hungry competitor and a winner. It is a tennis aphorism that it is far easier to become a world champion than to stay at the top. Once the player has reached the pinnacle he can suffer from fear of losing or he can lose his hunger for winning. Pancho was always couragous and success never softened him. He is as hard today as he was when he was struggling for recognition 13 years ago. He is as tough a competitor as the world has ever known...(h)e is a tennis killer in the best sense of the word.
Gonzales has a great temperment for the game, albeit not in the grand manner of a Gottfried Von Cramm or a Don Budge. Despite the fact that his attack seems to be motivated by sullen, cold fury or murderous detirmination, his inner turmoil has never caused him to lose a match....
The Gonzales game has nothing but virtues. Every stroke is beautifully executed, he plays with consummate grace, and seemingly, he never makes the wrong shot. He makes tennis look too easy. Gonzales has always been known as a great attacker, but he is equally great in the role of a defensive player. Everyone acknowledges the magnificance of his service, volleying and overheads, but he is equally strong in lobbing, running down balls and nailing placements on passing shots. Segura once said that Gonzales was the only big man who attacked who could also defend well. There is no hint of clumsiness in his game. He covers a prodigious amount of court with so little effort that few spectators realize how well he retrieves.
[The writer than reflects upon each area of Gonzales' game in great detail, explaining how he virtually has no weaknesses.]
[Final paragraph] For decades players have argued the relative merits of Tilden and Budge when discussing the never-ending question of the greatest player of all time. Budge himself now feels that Gonzales has earned the No.1 spot. (While all) players will never agree upon an answer, the general consensus among top players is a three-way split among Tilden, Budge and Gonzales. The current pros vote for Pancho because he has whipped them all....(but still it) is a question that unfortunately will never be answered."
Go Nole, Almagro, Rafa & Qureshi/Bopanna!
Last edited by Santorofan; 02-15-2005 at 08:42 PM.