Pancho (Francisco) Segura, His Game and Personality – Allen Fox Tennis

Birth and Early life

Francisco Segura was born on June 20, 1921, in Guayaquil, Ecuador. He was the first born of seven children born to Fransisca Cano and Domingo Segura. Francisco spent part of his early childhood in Ecuador and later moved to the US in 1930 where he would later acquire US citizenship and became a dual citizen of the two countries. Segura was popularly known in the sports industry as Pancho was born prematurely and almost died at birth. He had a tough childhood, having suffered malaria, and hernias. It is a miracle how Pancho ended up being a renowned sportsman having suffered different health complications that were life threatening during his childhood.
With a height of 1.68 m tall, and bowed legs from rickets he suffered in childhood, Pancho ended up terrorizing his opponents on the field with his speedy footwork and incredible work rate. By the age of 17, Pancho had participated in many Latin America tennis games, won titles and consequently winning Gardnar Mulloy scholarship from University of Miami. For three consecutive years, he won National Collegiate Singles Championship from 1943 to 1945. During these years, he was ranked third in America. In 1946, Segura won US Clay Courts and the US indoors but made it to the semifinals of several US Championships, at Forest Hills, NY.

Professional life

It was in 1947 that Pancho turned professional and became an instant crowd darling because of his infectious humor, deadly playing style and irresistible winning smile. For Segura to turn professional was a matter of opportunity meeting preparedness because tennis promoters Jack Harris and Bobby Riggs tried signing Ted Schroeder for the preliminary matches of the Riggs-Kramer tour but failed and instead opted to sign Pails and Francisco for the Australian Amateur championship and their weekly payments at the beginning was $300.
Segura professional career was not all success because his career was overshadowed by Gonzales and Kramer but one main highlight of his career was that he played and defeated many world great tennis players. His game stood out in the annual US Pro Championship where he won three titles in a row from 1950 to 1952 defeating Gonzales two times. By the time Segura was 41 years he had tasted four defeat in the hands of Gonzales and once in the hands of Butch in 1962.
Pancho spent most of his professional career playing Kramer in the 1950s and 1960s before tennis became open in 1968. His double fist forehand was so powerful such that Wimbledon champions Lew Hoad and Kramer named his shot the best single stroke ever produced in the world of tennis. Despite the fact that he had stunted growth and awkward bandy-legged gait due to childhood complications went ahead to be among the greatest sports personalities that graced the tennis game in the fifties and sixties.
In one of Pancho interviews, he said people questioned who he was when he entered the court but that was never going to damp his spirit because he had the passion for the game. It is true his passion drove him to achieve great heights rising from amateur South American tournaments to playing at Wimbledon one of tennis’s greatest stage. In the interviews, Segura would laugh how he played games for a wager tying the five dollar bill on the net due to lack of trust with the opponent.
After being exposed to different games on his first tour, Pancho developed to be a dangerous opponent that count beat anyone in the game. His strengths when playing was second serves when he would beat opponents. Pancho played the last United States Pro at 44 in 1962 and in 1970 he played the last US open single game.

Life after his tennis career and Death

After retiring, Pancho went into coaching and was a regular attendee of the Grand Slam championships. He was a great admirer of Tim Henman and Rodger Federer playing styles. Pancho went ahead to teach Beverly Hills Tennis Club and most of his students were Hollywood stars. Others he coached include Stan Smith, his son Spencer Segura, and Tracy Austin. On November 18, 2017, at the age of 96, sadly, Segura died out of Parkinson’s related complications at his home in Carlsbad California. At the time of his death, Pancho had risen from poverty by winning double championships, six US Pro Singles and become one of the best coaches in tennis having coached Jimmy Connors who won eight major champions.

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