A brilliant player whose mastery of the game was as much physical as it was mental, Pancho Segura may not be the most recognizable name in tennis. But a brief glimpse at his storied career draws a clear picture of a staunch competitor who reached the US Championship finals seven times, winning three in a row on three different surfaces, beginning in 1950. He is regarded for having shaped the game of Grand Slam champion Jimmy Connors, and taught tennis at the Beverly Hills Country Club to a who’s who of Hollywood greats.
A native of Ecuador who overcame multiple physical hardships as a child, Segura was known for his speedy footwork and powerful stroke. In an era which included Jack Kramer, Pancho Gonzales, and Bobby Riggs, Segura played brilliantly against his most talented contemporaries, with that same combination of speed and power, studying his opponent’s grips and movement to negotiate even the most difficult of winning shots.
According to Ellsworth Vines, a former World #1, Segura “return(ed) serve brilliantly, particularly off right side where quicksilver moves give him unusual positioning talent… Lob and dropshot unsurpassed. Superb passing shots, change of pace, and absolute consistency (made) him greatest ‘little man’ to ever play the game.”
Hall of Famer Jack Kramer once said, “Possibly (Don) Budge’s backhand was the best pure stroke in tennis. I accept that judgment. Now put a gun to my head, and I’d have to say that the Segura’s forehand was better, because he could disguise it so well, and hit so many more angles.”
In total, Segura won more than 1200 singles matches and captured 66 career titles, including three US Pro titles and a French Pro title, while reaching four championship matches at the Wembley Pro. As an amateur, he reached the US Open final four times, and appeared in four Grand Slam doubles finals in the 1940s.
In 1962, Segura settled in Southern California and became a notable tennis coach and pro at Beverly Hills Country Club. Even while entertaining the athletic prowess of the Hollywood elite – Doris Day and Charlton Heston among them – Segura brought a young Midwesterner named Jimmy Connors under his wing, and became the legendary champion’s longtime friend and mentor.
In the 1970s, Segura shifted to the La Costa Resort and Spa in San Diego, where he took up residence and continued his coaching career. Mr. Segura passed away on November 18, at his home at La Costa, from complications of Parkinson’s Disease.USTA League, the country’s largest adult recreational tennis league, gets hundreds of thousands of participants nationwide competing, exercising and enjoying the camaraderie of teammates. Tennis is the sport of a lifetime! Play is based on the National Tennis Rating Program (NTRP) rating system so you will play with and against players of similar ability. Whether you are new to the game or a former player, there’s a spot for you. USTA League also offers you and your teammates a chance to advance from local play to USTA League National Championship events.