"The Lone Wolf": Richard "Pancho" Gonzales [Archive] - MensTennisForums.com

"The Lone Wolf": Richard "Pancho" Gonzales

Santorofan
09-17-2004, 09:45 PM
Any men's genuine BFTP forum should have at least one thread dedicated to this legendary player:
http://www.latinosportslegends.com/pancho_gonzales_bio.htm

alfajeffster
02-11-2005, 12:51 PM
Any men's genuine BFTP forum should have at least one thread dedicated to this legendary player:
http://www.latinosportslegends.com/pancho_gonzales_bio.htm

Sorry for getting to this thread so late, santorofan, and I know we discussed this in another forum, but it's been a while. I wonder how many people know about the connection between the great Pancho Gonzalez and Andre Agassi? Pancho married Andre's older sister, who was a student of his in Las Vegas back in the mid to late 70s (he was at least 20 years her senior). Mike Agassi (Andre's dad) not only disapproved of the marriage, but actually considered putting out a contract on Pancho at one time. Pancho actually hit with a very young Andre many times.

Santorofan
02-13-2005, 04:36 PM
Hey Alfa,

Yup, this thread's moniker is derived from one of the best tennis articles I've read on any player, written in Sports Illustrated about 3-4 yrs ago on Gonzales...perhaps you've seen it? It delves into all you mention and quite a bit more, capturing much of the complex, haunting, intense character of this late, great champion. What amazes me is that many contempory fans and players are not even aware of this actual player, including Pete Sampras, who himself admited that he didn't know who Gonzales was into late in his own career, because, Sampras stated, "He never won Wimbledon." Personally I was startled to read that the world's #1 player for six years running had himself only had superficial knowledge of the game's recent history and it's legendary players. I realize Pete was pretty tunnel vision about his own tennis but c'mon! Ergo, this in part is why I decided to post this thread.

HanaFanGA
02-14-2005, 02:50 PM
Guys, I never saw Pancho play. But I've often heard that he's probably the greatest player to never win Wimbledon. Of course, he was of the pre-Open era and probably didn't play there many times. What is your opinion of where he *might* be in tennis history had he played more grand slams?

Santorofan
02-15-2005, 01:02 AM
Hey HanafanGA, nice to see you over here! Most all tennis historians I've seen put Gonzales in the top 10 (greatest of all time), and many of those in the top 5. From Tilden to Kramer to Rosewall to Connors, Gonzales played them all, and in most cases, dominated all eras of competition he faced. Like Althea Gibson, Tony Trabert, Jack Kramer and many, many others, his Grand Slam total is clearly misleading due to his desire to turn pro shortly after reaching the top. Further, Gonzales didn't even peak as a player 'til after being on the pro tour for at least a year or two...then he cleaned everybodys clock. If you get a chance, check out Bud Collins' new updated Tennis Encyclopedia when browsing at the local bookstore...there's a section on the early men's pro tour which gives the data I'm referring to. The thing i've always heard about Gonzales is that he never choked. He never gave up. He was arguably the most intense competitor tennis ever had. Connors himself stated that if he was to put up a player to play for his own life, it'd be Pancho. Although his serve was huge and his overall game essentially had no weaknesses, it was more than technical skill or exquisite shotmaking, it was a competitive drive and will to win second to none that made him such an extraordinarily fierce competitor. Like many of the best champions, he HATED to lose more than anything. But Pancho took it to another level (at least for that period 40s-50s-60s) and in the heat of battle was feared by linesman, umps, opponents (and occassionally) audiance members alike. He was no gentleman - graciousness was clearly not his forte. To quote Tennis magazine, matches to Gonzales were more like a street fight, which perhaps reflected on the fact that Gonzales regularly skipped school as a kid and was nearly always in some kind of general mischief or trouble with the law. I recall he had a problem with gambling most all his life. He never fit in with the tennis establishment either before or after his pro yrs and seemingly, didn't want to. Problems carried on to his personal life - six failed marriages and the alienation of all his children except one. He never buddied up with too many fellow pros on tour. This is where the moniker "Lone Wolf" came from. But at the end of the day, I attempt to forget all that and focus upon what was most important to him, as well as myself as a fan - nobody played this game better for longer than he, period.

HanaFanGA
02-15-2005, 05:14 AM
HA! I can see now why Connors was able to relate to Pancho! I would've loved to have seen him play. I wish that it would have been possible for he, Gibson, etc to have played more slams as an amateur. Like most anyone else, they had to make a living, of course. As for his personal problems, no one's perfect - even the professional athletes that we tend to look up to. And I agree that things like that shouldn't take away what someone accomplished on the court. Who were his main rivals?

Santorofan
02-15-2005, 09:30 AM
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."

HanaFanGA
02-15-2005, 12:25 PM
"He makes tennis look easy." I love those kinds of players. Since I didn't come from a family that played tennis, as a little kid, I would watch my favorites who were these kinds of players - McEnroe, Mandlikova, Ruzici, Navratilova. They would inspire me to go out and try to hit the ball as they did. I would visualize their strokes and got to be pretty good at immitating them. And that's how I came to be in a tennis sense.

It sounds like Pancho was the Venus and Serena of his time with very little actual competition until he was 19. He sounds like pure raw talent. And it is interesting that you noted the grand slam comparisons between he and his main rivals. Sounds like Pancho would've won quite a few at least.

And it's also interesting to see that his main rivals were Aussies. Their demeanors must have made for a dramatic contrast with Pancho.

Santorofan
02-16-2005, 05:06 AM
Well his era was an Aussie dominated period...from the 50s to the mid 70s the nation won a ton of Davis Cup championships and numerous Grand Slam titles, so Gonzales was an exceptional player who was able to challenge that reign, at least on the pro level. Jack Kramer and Tony Trabert also made an impact during that time, along with Olmdeo and Segura from South America and a few others. But all in all, tennis is a far more international affair than it was during that time. With the exception of the U.S. during the mid to early 90s, men's tennis has been far less dominated by one country since that time...and perhaps that's a good thing :)

alfajeffster
02-17-2005, 03:18 PM
I read once where someone asked the great Lew Hoad to name the one player he thought was the absolute toughest competitor he'd come up against in his great career, and his candid reply was: "That Mexican prick!"

Santorofan
02-17-2005, 08:51 PM
He's been called worse, that's for sure ;) There was no love lost btwn him and numerous top pros of the time...both Trabert and Kramer certainly had their "moments" with him, and even "friends" like Segura stated that Gonzales refused to talk to him for wks after he beat him a one particular match - he wouldn't even look at the guy :eek: From what I've read, Gonzales was fairly well-behaved in his amateur days playing Forest Hills, etc; it was in later yrs as a pro that he turned into what can be fairly described as tennis' first heel or villian. Not everyone saw him that way, but more than a few people did!

alfajeffster
02-18-2005, 06:57 PM
I'd seriously like to see some footage of him playing from his heyday. I know the famous 1969 Pasarell match at Wimbledon is available (as is Hoad from that time frame), but both were way past their primes at that point. I'd like to get ahold of a Hoad/Gonzalez match from the late 50s or early 60s and see what they really played like. I've always seen similarities between Sampras and Gonzalez from what little I've seen of Pancho- they were built similarly- long-limbed with classic service motions. I'm not so sure without having seen Gonzalez play what his ground game was like though.

Santorofan
02-27-2005, 03:47 AM
Yet another excellent article on Gonzales' career I'd recommend, by writer David Hernandez:

http://www.***************/featured%20articles/archive/article-008.htm

Santorofan
09-18-2005, 08:21 AM
Wow. Thanks to a heads up from this board I was able to catch the second airing of Pancho Gonzales: The Latin Legend of Tennis tonight. I was pretty surprised by the high quality of the program, including a fair amount of footage from key matches he played. Rarely if ever have I watched a tennis documentary with such professionalism and significant in-depth research done. Spike TV should be commended for this, as I hardly expected it from such a channel, as Laver, Kramer, Shroeder, Sedgmen, Connors, Agassi, Armritraj, amongst so many others (including various family members) were featured in the documentary. Definitely worth getting a copy of for those who may've missed the three airing (scheduled to be on again this morning, 10AM EST).

alfajeffster
12-10-2005, 04:28 PM
Santorofan, Lew Hoad's wife Jennie had this to say about Gonzalez in that story you mentioned:

"He was just so beautiful to watch. Being tall, he was a little more graceful, more natural. Don't think he ever moved in an unattractive way."

Richard_from_Cal
05-05-2006, 06:33 PM
Thanks for this thread, SantoroFan...Ricardo deserves the attention!

People may not appreciate the gains realized by Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe, et. al., were begun by a Latino from Southern California, a public courts player...a fellow who played in the "shamateurism" era...whose career, like Rod Laver's straddled the Open Era...

:eek: --I could go on...Like Laver, people don't realize how good, how above all the rest of the competition he could be. He beat all the pros on the pro side so thoroughly and frequently that they recruited the best young amateurs...and paid them more in appearance money than Ricardo got if he won...:worship:


His autobiography (at least up to 1958, which would have been prior to the Open Era, and that phenomenally long match with his protege, Charlie Pasarell) is here at the University of Arizona's library...and I'm gonna read it one day.
Man with a racket; the autobiography of Pancho Gonzales as told to Cy Rice c1958 [GV994.G65 A3]254 p. illus. ...and filed in the juvenile material here...(I guess because he's Latino, and they're a very strong influence here in Arizona. :o )

My homage to his talent is v-Here-v on another board--
http://www.tennis-x.com/xboard/viewtopic.php?p=8918&highlight=#8918

Santorofan
05-13-2006, 01:37 AM
Thanks for this thread, SantoroFan...Ricardo deserves the attention!

People may not appreciate the gains realized by Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe, et. al., were begun by a Latino from Southern California, a public courts player...a fellow who played in the "shamateurism" era...whose career, like Rod Laver's straddled the Open Era...

:eek: --I could go on...Like Laver, people don't realize how good, how above all the rest of the competition he could be. He beat all the pros on the pro side so thoroughly and frequently that they recruited the best young amateurs...and paid them more in appearance money than Ricardo got if he won...:worship:


His autobiography (at least up to 1958, which would have been prior to the Open Era, and that phenomenally long match with his protege, Charlie Pasarell) is here at the University of Arizona's library...and I'm gonna read it one day.
254 p. illus. ...and filed in the juvenile material here...(I guess because he's Latino, and they're a very strong influence here in Arizona. :o )

My homage to his talent is v-Here-v on another board--
http://www.tennis-x.com/xboard/viewtopic.php?p=8918&highlight=#8918

Richard, Thanks for your input on the thread! I checked out your url link also, good stuff. Regarding the autobiography "Man With a Racket," I thought it was a great read. I found a copy of it at the Florida State University library, as it is extremely difficult to find in used bookstores or anywhere online, a collecters item for sure! Pancho definitely paved the way for others; Arthur Ashe stated that he was the only tennis role model he ever had. The legendary Indian player Vijay Armatraj has also stated that Gonzalez made a deep impression upon him as a youth...

Richard_from_Cal
06-12-2006, 06:10 PM
Richard, Thanks for your input on the thread! I checked out your url link also, good stuff. Regarding the autobiography "Man With a Racket," I thought it was a great read. I found a copy of it at the Florida State University library, as it is extremely difficult to find in used bookstores or anywhere online, a collecters item for sure! Pancho definitely paved the way for others; Arthur Ashe stated that he was the only tennis role model he ever had. The legendary Indian player Vijay Armatraj has also stated that Gonzalez made a deep impression upon him as a youth...Johnny Mac, also, claimed that ...rather than Ilie Nastase, Pancho was an inspiration. :) {I.e.: by getting mad, and getting better when he got mad...Mr. McEnroe...was following on the heels of Ricardo!}


I wrote:His autobiography (at least up to 1958, which would have been prior to the Open Era, and that phenomenally long match with his protege, Charlie Pasarell) is here at the University of Arizona's library...and I'm gonna read it one day.
254 p. illus. ...and filed in the juvenile material here...(I guess because he's Latino, and they're a very strong influence here in Arizona. )That day has come...I've checked it out, and am up to chapter 4.