Once young boys had dozens of books to chose from that chronicled the lives and achievements of their sports heroes; of baseball heroes like Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Sandy Koufax; of football players like Johnny Unitas and Paul Horning. Those days are apparently long gone, but then along comes this somewhat-adoring view of the life of tennis great Pancho Segura. Little Pancho covers the life of the dirt-poor, extremely sickly, Ecuadorian who began winning tennis championships in his teens and continued doing so until the age of 67.
Segura was the man who introduced the two-handed forehand to tennis and went on to coach a young man who would find some success, a player known as Jimmy Connors. Author Seebohm writes with a smooth and flowing style that makes this biography as easy to read as a young-adults version. She also focuses on the “pay it forward” aspects of Segura’s life, such as the fact that his coaching of Connors led Connors to later coach a “struggling but talented” Andy Roddick. Roddick learned Segura’s skills via Connors.
The only drawback with this story is the feeling that Segura’s personality is never quite captured. Still, a charming life well told.
University of Nebraska Press, $26.95, 210 pages
Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.