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Tennis Hall of Famer Alex Olmedo, USC great who became Wimbledon champion, dies at 84

Alex Olmedo, pictured at Wimbledon in 1959, went on to teach tennis at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Alex Olmedo, pictured at Wimbledon in 1959, later taught tennis at the Beverly Hills Hotel. His students included Katharine Hepburn, Robert Duvall and Chevy Chase.
(Associated Press)

Alex Olmedo, who won the Wimbledon and Australian Championships singles titles in 1959 and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987, has died. He was 84.

Citing Olmedo’s son, Alejandro Jr., the Hall of Fame said Thursday that Olmedo died of brain cancer on Wednesday.

Alejandro “Alex” Olmedo was born in Arequipa, Peru, in 1936 and was introduced to the sport by his father, who taught tennis at a local club. He won the club championship at 14, and word began to spread of his talent. When it became clear he would need to move in order to advance his tennis, local supporters put together $700 to help.

In 1954, a 17-year-old Olmedo, who spoke no English at the time, used the funds to board a ship from Lima, Peru, to Havana, then onto a plane to Miami, and finally a bus to Los Angeles, eager to immerse himself in the thriving Southern California tennis world.

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Once in Los Angeles, he attended USC, where he won NCAA tennis championships in singles and doubles in both 1956 and 1958.

Olmedo played in the Davis Cup for the United States and led the team to the trophy in 1958, when he also paired with Ham Richardson to win the doubles title at the U.S. National Championships, the tournament now known as the U.S. Open.

That was followed by Olmedo’s historic 1959 season, which in addition to a victory over Rod Laver in the Wimbledon final and his triumph at the tournament now called the Australian Open included a run to the final at the U.S. National Championships.

That was when Grand Slam tournaments were closed to professional players. Olmedo turned pro in 1960.

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“Alex Olmedo came from humble beginnings and he made sacrifices and worked hard to chase his dreams of a tennis career, ultimately becoming a major champion and Hall of Famer,” Stan Smith, president of the Rhode Island-based International Tennis Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “He was a terrific player and a Davis Cup hero. ... He was a great champion, a great friend, and he will be missed.”

Olmedo is the second Hall of Famer to die recently. Dennis Ralston, who starred at USC in the 1960s and was a five-time Grand Slam doubles champion, died Dec. 7 at 78.

Olmedo taught tennis for more than 25 years at the Beverly Hills Hotel, with celebrity students such as Katharine Hepburn, Robert Duvall and Chevy Chase, according to the hall.

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In addition to Alejandro Jr., Olmedo is survived by his daughters Amy and Angela, and four grandchildren, the hall said. He was previously married to Ann Pierce Olmedo.

A Times staff writer contributed to this report.


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