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Dennis Ralston


History of the Tennis Legend Dennis Ralston
Richard Dennis Ralston was one of those rare men……..player, coach and captain.

The Start Up Years, National Junior and Junior Davis Cup Years, Wimbledon at 17 and the Big Circuit, Davis Cup Years – Playing – 1960-1966, Becoming a Touring Pro with my Hero, Open Tennis Years (for me), Becoming a Player-Coach – Tanner and Others, Coaching and Captaining the Davis Cup Team, Coaching Chris Evert and Noah, SMU Coaching Years, Broadmoor to Present

Dennis the Younger Years

My Mom and Dad introduced me to the game of tennis. I was born July 27, 1942 in Bakersfield, California.  My parents were both good players.  I was told that I watched from my playpen as they hit balls at Jastro Park .  When I turned four, Mom took me to the courts and hit balls to me.  My sister, Roberta, and I hit and fought, hit and fought.  I played my first tournament at age 5.  I lost to an eleven year old boy.  I was devastated!  Because tennis was a family activity and I was very competitive, I wanted to improve.  I hit on our garage door until my Dad built an 8 foot brick wall next to our neighbor’s yard.  I practiced every day after school.  Bakersfield Racquet Club was founded by the players who formed a club at Jastro Park.  Bonds were sold to the members to get it going.  The Club became the focal point of tennis in Kern County.  Lake Lovelace was the club manager and club professional.  He was my first teacher other than my folks.  He challenged me to hit 20 forehands, backhands and serves in a row.  That is now he would always end our lessons.  It took me five years to do it.

The first sanctioned junior tournament was held at the Racquet Club.  I saw all of the prizes lined up and was inspired.  I remember a particular tennis bag I won which was really cool.  The club was known for having the best prizes.

Bobby Siska was the #1 player from Northern California and thought to be the next great player by many.  No one could beat him.  He was a left hander and very steady.  I went up to Northern Calif. to play the National Hard Court Tournament (11 and under) at Burlingame.  No one had heard of me.  I beat Bobby.  It was a big upset.  I had arrived on the tennis scene.

The next couple of years were spent mainly playing in Southern California in the 11 and under and 13 and under tournaments.  The quality of tennis was unbelievable in Southern Calif. with an abundance of great players.  Bill Bond was a friend and tennis rival and was my main competition through every age bracket until the 18s.  Perry T. Jones as the czar of Southern California Tennis and recognized that competition was an important part of improvement  and often had matches with the leading juniors playing in all-star teams of former players and promising  juniors. 

That gave me the chance to play some of the older players and I started to be able to beat them.  This really gave me confidence and the belief that I could beat anybody.  I once had the opportunity to practice with Ken Rosewall.  I won the first set against him and the crowd at the LA tennis club became enormous.  Even though he had just flown in from Australia, the fact that I had won a match against him was also a help to my confidence.  Some of the players who were part of the Southern Calif. tennis scene at the time were Ricky Nelson, Bill Bond, Jack Douglas, Bentley Hill, John Lesch and Alan Fox.  On the women’s side were Billy Jean Moffett, Carol Caldwell and Karen Hance.

The next years, I moved up to the National level.  I played National tournaments including Kalamazoo and was selected to the Junior Davis Cup Team.  As team members we had the opportunity to play in the men’s circuit ending with playing in the men’s at Forest Hills.  I learned a great deal by having the opportunity to compete with juniors from all over the world.  My game continued to improve.
As I look back on the things which helped my game develop as a junior, a few things stand out:  having the opportunity to play the varied and diverse types of players from the Racquet Club and having the men’s ladder which allowed a junior to compete were important factors in my development.  There were two left handers there who helped me learn how to play against a left handed game.  Having the club as a home base and having the support of many members who took an interest in me was really important  to my development as a player.  I spent every spare moment I had at the Racquet Club.  It was the perfect place for a boy to start a tennis career.








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