12/11/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 12/11/2020 05:10
The ITF was saddened to learn of the death of Alejandro 'Alex' Olmedo, the Peruvian-American great of the 1950s and 1960s, who died of cancer at the age of 84 on 9 December.
Born in Arequipa, Peru, Olmedo was taught to play tennis by his father, who coached at a local club. At the age of 17, speaking no English, he made the journey to Los Angeles after local supporters had raised the funds for him to travel abroad to help him deliver on his huge potential in the sport.
Olmedo worked in a tennis shop, while learning English at nights, and in 1956, he enrolled at the University of Southern California - and he would go on to win NCAA singles and doubles championships with the USC team in 1956 and 1958.
With his homeland of Peru not competing in Davis Cup at that time, American Davis Cup captain (and Southern California tennis leader) Perry Jones successfully advocated for Olmedo's inclusion in the USA team - and it proved to be an inspired move. In 1958, Olmedo made his debut in the Inter-Zonal final victory over Italy, winning all three matches he contested to take the Americans into the Challenge Round.
Facing an Australian team which had won seven of the last eight Davis Cup titles, including three consecutive titles from 1955 to 1957, Olmedo put in the performances of his life to defeat both Mal Anderson and Ashley Cooper in singles, as well as teaming up with Hamilton Richardson to win an incredible doubles clash against Anderson and Neale Fraser, recovering from two sets down to win 10-12 3-6 16-14 6-3 7-5. It delivered the Americans' second Davis Cup crown of the decade.
His success in Davis Cup inspired individual acts of brilliance the following year. Olmedo defeated Fraser to win the title at the 1959 Australian Championships, and later that year overcame a young Rod Laver to win the title at Wimbledon. He finished runner-up to Fraser at the 1959 US Championships and competed again in the Davis Cup Challenge Round, but this time the Australians won back their title.
Olmedo turned professional in 1960, winning the US Pro title the same year, and competed as a professional for a further five years. Following his retirement from competition, he became the Director of Tennis at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where he taught tennis for more than 25 years.
He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987 - the same year as another American Davis Cup champion, Dennis Ralston, who also died this week.
He is survived by three children, Amy, Angela and Alejandro, Jr, and four grandchildren.