tennis player of the 1940s and 1950s, both as an amateur and as a professional. In 1950 and 1952, as a professional, he was the World Co-No. 1 player. He was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, but moved to the United States in the late 1930s and is a citizen of both countries. He is the only player to have won the US Pro title on three different surfaces (which he did consecutively from 1950-1952).
Long before Open Tennis, Segura turned professional in 1947 and was an immediate crowd-pleaser with his winning smile, infectiously humorous manner, and unorthodox but deadly game. According to Bobby Riggs, Jack Harris (the promoter of the forthcoming Riggs-Kramer tour for 1948) attempted to sign Ted Schroeder to play the preliminary matches of the tour. Ultimately he failed and instead signed Segura to play the latest Australian amateur champion, Dinny Pails. Instead of a percentage of the gross receipts, as Riggs and Kramer were contracted for, Segura and Pails were each paid $300 a week.
Although he was overshadowed as a player by Kramer and Pancho Gonzales in his professional career, Segura won many matches against the greatest players in the world and was particularly brilliant in the annual United States Pro Championship. He won the title three years in a row from 1950 through 1952, beating Gonzales twice. He also lost in the finals four times, losing to Gonzales three times and once to Butch Buchholz in 1962 when he was 41 years old.
In the 1950–1951 professional tour in which Segura played the headline match against Kramer he was beaten 58 matches to 27, a noticeably better performance, however, than Gonzales's record of 27 victories and 96 defeats against Kramer the year before. In the following tour, that of 1952-1953, Segura was reduced to playing the preliminary match, where he beat the Australian Ken McGregor 71 matches to 25.
For the calendar year of 1952, when Kramer, Budge, and Gonzales all played sporadically, Segura was ranked as the world no. 1 player by the Professional Lawn Tennis Association, with Gonzales at no. 2.
Segura, Kramer writes, "was the one pro who brought people back. The fans would come out to see the new challenger face the old champion, but they would leave talking about the bandy-legged little suonuvabitch who gave them such pleasure playing the first match and the doubles. The next time the tour came to town the fans would come back to see Segoo." For this, according to Kramer, Segura made more than $50,000 in each of six or seven years during the 1950s, a time in which "there were very few baseball, football or basketball players making $50,000."
Segura, says Kramer, probably played "more matches against top players than anyone in history. Besides my couple hundred, he must have played Gonzales a hundred and fifty, and Budge, Sedgman, Riggs, Hoad and Rosewall all around fifty apiece. I beat him about 80 percent of the time, and Gonzales also held an edge over him. He was close with Budge. Pails beat him 41-31 on the Kramer-Riggs tour, but that was when Segoo was still learning how to play fast surfaces. With everybody else, he had the edge over: Sedgman, Rosewall, Hoad, Trabert, McGregor."
At a professional event in 1951 the forehand drives of a number of players were electronically measured. Pancho Gonzales hit the fastest, 112.88 mph, followed by Jack Kramer at 107.8 and Welby Van Horn at 104. Since it was generally assumed at the time that Segura had the hardest forehand among his contemporaries, it is possible that he was not present at that event.
Mike Franks, Segura became the teaching professional at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club. replacing Carl Earn. Most of Pancho's students were movie stars such as Dinah Shore, Doris Day, Julie Andrews, Richard Conte, Shelley Winters, Charlton Heston, Barbra Streisand, Dina Merrill, Kirk Douglas, Robert Evans, Lauren Bacall, Gene Hackman, Carl Reiner, Barbara Marx, George C. Scott, Janet Leigh, and Ava Gardner. Jeanne Martin (Dean's wife) was a favorite student of his. Pancho also found time to coach and teach Jimmy Connors and Stan Smith, two great tennis champions, as well as his son, Spencer, who played at UCLA. In 1971, he left Beverly Hills to become the teaching professional at the La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, California, where he is now retired. He is widely credited with coaching, mentoring, and structuring the playing game of Jimmy Connors, starting at age 16, in 1968, when his mother, Gloria, brought him to Pancho in California. Dr. Abraham Verghese describes taking a tennis lesson from Segura during this period in The Tennis Partner.
Before the famous "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973, Segura openly supported Riggs. When King won the match, Segura declared disgustedly that Riggs was only the third-best senior player, behind himself and Gardnar Mulloy. He challenged King to another match. King refused.
Segura retired from playing tennis after the 1970 US Open at Forest Hills. However, he played his last doubles match as late as the 1975 US Open, at the age of 54.
Segura was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1984.