Davis Cup

12/08/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 12/08/2020 13:51

Obituary: Dennis Ralston

The ITF was saddened to learn of the death of Dennis Ralston. A Davis Cup champion as both player and captain, Ralston died of cancer at the age of 78 on Sunday 6 December.

Ralston was at the heart of much American Davis Cup success during the 1960s and 1970s. He made his debut during the 1960 season, and notched up 25 victories (to just nine defeats) over a seven-year playing career in the competition.

The highlight came in 1963, when Ralston and Chuck McKinley guided the American team to the Challenge Round, and scored a superb victory over an Australian team which was unbeaten in nearly five years.

Ralston defeated John Newcombe in five sets in the opening match of the tie, before he and McKinley overcame Roy Emerson and Neale Fraser in the doubles match. McKinley would eventually win a decisive fifth match to claim the title for USA for the 19th time.

The victory in 1963 was in fact the only occasion that Australian hegemony over the competition was broken between 1959 and 1967. Ralston and McKinley came close to retaining their title in 1964, but this time McKinley was beaten by Emerson in the decisive fifth match.

A loyal Davis Cup servant, Ralston remained heavily involved in the competition after his playing career, firstly as a team coach between 1968 and 1971, and then as captain from 1972 to 1975.

It was in his first year as captain that he achieved his greatest success - the competition format changed in 1972, with the Challenge Round abolished and the defending champions competing throughout the season.

Thus, Ralston guided an American team which had won four straight Davis Cup titles, to victory over Caribbean West Indies in the first round, before further triumphs against Mexico, Chile and Spain saw the team through to an away final in Romania, a rematch of the previous year's clash.

It proved to be a classic encounter in front of a boisterous crowd in Bucharest - with Stan Smith stealing the show to seal yet another Davis Cup crown for the Americans.

'He really prepared us for that battle in Romania,' Smith remembered this week. 'It was the most challenging and satisfying of all my Davis Cup campaigns. Dennis knew what it would take for us to compete, and he was a tremendous leader for me and the team.'

Away from Davis Cup, Ralston had enjoyed an outstanding individual career too. He was a finalist at Wimbledon in 1966 and also reached the semi-finals at both the US and Australian Opens. He won the men's doubles title as a 17-year-old alongside Rafael Osuna at Wimbledon in 1960, and would go on to claim a further three Grand Slam doubles titles with McKinley.

Ralston would later coach Chris Evert (during the peak of her career), and also worked with Gabriela Sabatini among other top players. He was coach of the men's team at Southern Methodist University from 1981 to 1989 and again from 1991 to 1993.

He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987.