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December 18, 2014

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He had a score to settle

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Tiffany Brown

Lawyer Phillip Aurbach shows he’s still got a good swing, even if it is in his office and not on the tennis courts of his youth.

Phillip Aurbach was a new face at a friend’s house, and by dessert it was clear his tennis story involving Pancho Gonzalez couldn’t be topped.

As a ninth grader at Clark High School, Aurbach took up tennis but just missed making the team. As a sophomore, he made the cut. He became more proficient and earned extra money at the Desert Inn, where he washed the tennis courts and strung rackets.

This brings us to Pancho Story No. 1.

Gonzalez, volatile and tempestuous, ruled international tennis during most of the 1950s and early ’60s before relaxing as the marquis tennis director at Caesars Palace.

In 1969 Gonzalez asked the young Aurbach, who hung around the courts, to play a set with him so ball girls could practice for a tournament.

Aurbach was thrilled to play his hero. Still, Aurbach was a bit of a punk and made the old pro work a little. “I threw in a few drop shots and a lob or two. Just a few irritating things.”

Gonzalez grew annoyed with the kid.

At the end of the lopsided set, when the teenager ran up to the net and offered a handshake, the old pro put a partially drunk can of soda in Aurbach’s hand, turned around and walked off without a word.

Take that, kid.

“I was humiliated,” Aurbach said. “He was a jerk to me in front of my friends.”

Fast forward to 1984: Aurbach is a lawyer and the 55-year-old Gonzalez marries for the sixth time — to Rita Agassi, the 23-year-old big sister of Andre Agassi.

Five years later Rita wanted a divorce.

Which brings us to Pancho Story No. 2. Agassi hired Aurbach as her attorney, and the kid faced Gonzalez in the deposition.

“I don’t think Pancho remembered who I was, or cared,” Aurbach said. “I’m not normally obnoxious but with him I was as obnoxious as I could be. I asked him questions that made him dodge and weave. He tried to walk out. We got a good settlement.

“Revenge is best served cold.”

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