Gene Mako, a champion tennis player who paired with the legendary Don Budge to win four doubles titles at
The partners won doubles at the U.S. Open, then called the U.S. Nationals, in 1936 and '38 and Wimbledon in 1937 and '38. Mako won the mixed doubles title at the 1936 U.S. Open with Alice Marble. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1973.
Mako was also Budge’s last remaining obstacle in that man’s pursuit of tennis’ first Grand Slam in 1938. Mako and Budge were not only playing partners but also close friends who roomed together on the road. In 1938 they traveled by ocean liner to
"[Mako] encouraged my father and pushed him to be the best he could be," Budge's son David said Sunday. Don Budge died in 2000.
Born Jan. 24, 1916, in Budapest, Hungary, Mako as a child immigrated with his family to Buenos Aires and then Los Angeles, where his father, artist Bartholomew Mako, created works for public places like churches, libraries and post offices.
Mako played tennis at USC, earning a varsity letter in 1934, ’36 and ’37. In 1934 he won the
Mako was a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team from 1935 to '38. But a serious injury to his right shoulder in 1936 greatly impaired his serve and curtailed his tennis career. He could still compete in doubles, however, and partnered with Budge from 1934 to '38.
"I was a pretty happy-go-lucky guy and I was in very good shape, but I did not spend that much time working on my game," Mako told Times columnist Jerry Crowe in 2007. "I did most everything I did with whatever talent I had."
After retiring from tennis, he had a successful career building tennis courts and dealing in art in Los Angeles. He also served in the Navy during World War II.