Statistics Aside, the best all-time tennis player 3-decades: Pancho Gonzales
by Pit O'Maley
(Alameda, Ca. USA)
The Best Serve, Best Player: Pancho Gonzales
What male tennis player beat all up-and-coming amateurs in three decades while dominating the professionals he joined since 1948? Richard Alonzo(Pancho)Gonzales. All the media darlings since want to diminish his feats with statistics.
Here's an important fact: by joining the 'professionals' he was banned from competition with the amateurs(Forest Hills, Wimbledon, Australia, Rolland Garros)until 1969 when the ban lifted.
In the 50's and 60's, he regularly beat Jack Kramer, Riggs, Sedgman, Trabert, McKay, Olmedo,Segura and the Ausie kids, Hoad and Ken Rosewall.These were regular tours that could be on all kinds of surfaces, sometimes improvised.
These were not mere "exhibitions," I can attest to that. At age 7, in 1954, my father(who played Gonzales in K.C.'48)took me to Cleveland to see 'Pancho' demolish Tony Trabert, Kramer's star newcomer.You played full, all-out sets then. Not the commercial break, tie-breaking abbreviated display of athleticism we see today with color chart analysis.
So, Gonzales, you see, was prevented from achieving Grand Slam statistics. And his Davis Cup play was limited. Yet,when the ban was lifted, at the age of 41 he entered Wimbledon men's singles and played one of the longest matches against Charlie Pasarell, almost 20 years his junior on a side-court that took 2 days to complete that remains very controversial today for the tourney officials' refusal to postpone the early sets on account of darkness, as if, once more, to force a Gonzales defeat.
Laver, although two-time Grand Slam winner,a deserving nominee in any 'best' category,lost to "Pancho" in 1970 at Madison Square Garden.Laver mocks the notion of Gonzales being better, saying in his autobiography that Gonzales was the first pro to lose to an amateur(Cox)when Gonzales was 43.As far as I am concerned, 15 years of(Sampras) play does not compare to 25 years of all-out play in uncontrollable conditions.
The NYT rated Sampras's serve the best. Poppycock.Seeing Gonzales in 3 decades against the best,fittest players of any age(without VAAS rules)Gonzales never double-faulted 3 times in a game. Down 15-40 several times on serve, Pancho would serve 2 aces minimum and a volley to win.