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PANCHO HONORED: Back in the 1950s and ‘60s, Pancho Gonzalez was one of the handful of players who bought into a novel idea _ that you could play tennis for money.

During an era when the Grand Slam tournaments were closed to professionals, Gonzalez was one of the most successful players on the fledgeling professional tours _ groups of six to 10 players who barnstormed around the country and the globe, playing to small crowds for prize money.

On Saturday, in an honor many felt was long overdue, Gonzalez was posthumously inducted into the U.S. Open Court of Champions, a hallowed spot at the National Tennis Center that honors the game’s great players. Gonzalez is in there with the likes of Arthur Ashe, Don Budge, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, all of whom won their fair share of Grand Slam events.

Gonzalez won America’s Grand Slam twice, as well, back in 1948 and 1949, but turned pro and, as such, was barred from playing the biggest events for nearly two decades.

Because of that, it’s hard to pinpoint his place on the list of greats, though tennis historians agree he’s squarely in the top 10. Gonzalez was long thought of as the top one or two among the pros he toured with in the 50s and 60s _ Budge, Pancho Segura, Tony Trabert and Lew Hoad, among them.

“Imagine today if you took the top eight pros in the world and they had to play each other every day and every week,” said Gonzalez’ son, Dan. “But their passion and love for the game overtook everything they did. They created that image. Gradually, each year, the crowds became bigger, the interest was better and it became a bona fide sport. They’re the ones who put it out there, showing people that tennis was the real thing.”

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FAN FOLLOWING: When Sloane Stephens played in her first U.S. Open juniors tournament several years ago, she was the biggest fan of French player Gael Monfils.

“I was in love with Gael Monfils. Like, he was it,” Stephens, now 18, recalled after losing in the third round in the main draw at the Open on Saturday. “I was going to marry him. That was it. Never talked to me. Never even spoke to the guy in my life.”

After Stephens upset 23rd-seeded Shahar Peer in the second round Thursday, she happened to ride in the same van as the seventh-ranked Monfils back to the hotel.

“He is THE nicest person in the world, but I’m definitely not going to marry him,” Stephens said.

“I’m following him on Twitter, but that’s as far as I’m going to go with that.”

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YOUNG GUARD: The Americans’ young guard beat the old in mixed doubles.

Jack Sock and Melanie Oudin upset the top-seeded defending champs, Bob Bryan and Liezel Huber, 2-6, 6-3, 10-6 (tiebreak).

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