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Latinx Heritage Month

On this day in Latinx history: Pancho Gonzales wins first Grand Slam title

The Mexican-American secures his first of back-to-back U.S. National Championships

Richard “Pancho” Gonzales shocked the tennis world when he beat the favorite, South African Eric Sturgess, in the U.S. National Championship title match on Sept. 19, 1948. Gonzales wiped Sturgess off the clay courts in straight sets (6-2, 6-3, 14-12) in front of a packed crowd at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York.

It was the 20-year-old Los Angeles native’s first career Grand Slam win, and it made him the first Latino man to win the U.S. Championships since Mexican John Doeg did so in 1930. The Mexican-American Gonzales would become the first Latino man to repeat as a U.S. Championships winner the following year.

The 10,000 fans who watched the match through some rain showers poured on the applause for Gonzales after his victory, The Washington Post reported.

The Post detailed how Gonzales overpowered Sturgess, who was eight years his senior, and had the time of his life “laughing, clowning” the South African.

The first two sets took a combined 42 minutes. Because of the longevity of the third set, officials ruled only one more game could be played before they postponed the match.

Gonzales had no interest in coming back another day, and charged the net to break Sturgess’ serve and conclude the match.

Rhiannon Walker is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a drinker of Sassy Cow Creamery chocolate milk, an owner of an extensive Disney VHS collection, and she might have a heart attack if Frank Ocean doesn't drop his second album.