Segura During
His College Career

Caroline Seebohm

It only took 5 minutes hitting with the teenage Segura for Gardnar Mulloy to realize he was good.

Gardnar Mulloy first saw Pancho Segura play in Guayaquil before World War II, when Mulloy was visiting Ecuador with the State Department. "When we visited these clubs we would be asked to play with the juniors, and in Guayaquil they dragged out this bandy-legged little kid. I hit with him and he was good.

"When you hit with a junior you can usually tell within five minutes if he's going to be any good or not. I said to the members of the Guayaquil Tennis Club that this kid had to get to the United States and if he ever came I'd be glad to help him."

In late in 1941, Mulloy found out first hand how good Pancho had become, when he defeated Mulloy in the Dade County Championship in Miami, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 8-6. The match was widely reported by the international press, who were dazzled by the speed and tenacity of the South American marvel, who had seemingly come out of nowhere to defeat Mulloy, the seven time champion.

Gardnar Mulloy was at the time the coach of the University of Miami tennis team, and thanks to his influence, Segura won a scholarship to the University of Miami starting in the fall of 1942.

The university administration was cunningly given the impression that Pancho had the required credits from Ecuador to grant him admission. "The president would keep asking, 'Where are the credits?'" Mulloy recalled. "And Pancho would say, 'They're coming next week.' Of course they never came."

Pancho proved worthy of Mulloy's trust. The following year Pancho won the East Coast Championship, the Southampton tournament (both on grass), and lost to his future coach, Gardnar Mulloy, in the final of the Inter-American Championship in Havana, Cuba.

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In addition to Little Pancho, Caroline Seebohm is the author of Under Live Oaks: The Last Great Houses of the Old South, Boca Rococo, and How Addison Mizner Invented Florida's Gold Coast. Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and other publications. An avid tennis player, she was a high school singles champion.

Little Pancho: The Life of Tennis Legend Pancho Segura

Drawing on interviews with many in the game who knew or admired Pancho, Caroline Seebohm provides a close-up picture of the unlikely pro as his career first emerged in Ecuador and then developed further in the United States during the 1940s, where he broke down social and political prejudices with his charm, naturalness, and brilliance on the court.

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