Pancho Segura, Ecuador

Rickets. Poor. Ecuador. Dirt. His two small hands sweeping, picking up balls at the Guayaquil tennis club while cruise liners sailed the ocean nearby. This bow-legged kid loved to watch them. Maricon, they called him. “Fairy.” Too small, too weak, so two hands on the forehand. He played and played until everyone wanted to hit with him. 30 cents an hour, then 50 cents an hour, then 10,000 hours, then 20,000 hours, then that two-handed forehand one of the great shots in tennis history.

Napkins, cruise liners, celebrities, dreams. Napkins at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club where Pancho reigned with his shock of white hair. On napkins he scratched out the endless patterns and possibilities of tennis physics from his unconventional Einsteinian mind. As Rod Laver said of playing Segura: “You felt like you could win, but you would start doubting yourself because his knowledge was so great.”

As only someone who came up from poverty might know in the gut, the mano-a-mano competition on the tennis court became, for Segura, a type of “democracy in action”: “Just me and you, baby. Doesn’t matter how much money you have, or who your dad is, or if you went to Harvard, Yale or whatever. Just me and you.”

The two legendary Panchos—Gonzales and Segura—handled the WASP world differently as they toured and entertained them with tennis from the gods. Gonzales dour, bitter. Segura all smiles, jokes. They helped each other get through it all.

Artist Bio: Leonardo Luque, a retired Colombian naval officer, earned his fine arts degree in 2012 from Jorge Tadeo Lozano University in Bogota, Colombia. Currently a player on Colombia’s 65s team for the world championships, Leo has drawn all his life and is especially interested in the beauty and motion of the human body. After traveling through China and Panama, he settled down with his family in 2014 in Boca Raton, Florida.

For More on Pancho Segura, check out Joel Drucker’s piece on Segura for the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

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