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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.

Wimbledon at Seventeen

In 1960, I had to make a big decision; to go to my high school graduation or travel to England and compete in the Wimbledon Championships. My partner in the men’s doubles was to be Raphael Osuna from Mexico.  We hadn’t played together before.  I was going to be rooming with him at Southern California in the fall.


Dennis the Younger Years

It was a very difficult decision for me since I had strong ties to my school and my friends, and I didn’t really think I or we had a chance of winning  because it was a men’s tournament and I didn’t think I was ready for competition at that level – yet.  Ultimately, my decision to play at Wimbledon was because of encouragement from my Mom and Dad and realizing the opportunity and valuable experience it would be.  I also was reminded that I had won the Southern California Championships which was an open men’s event so I was the best player in Southern California.  So, I packed my bags and got on the plane and flew to London looking forward to the opportunity.

When I arrived in Heathrow on our Boeing 707,  I took a train to Victoria Station and then another to Bristol – the town of my first tournament.  When we arrived there, we learned that  we weren’t yet accepted into Wimbledon.  We were told that we would be watched in the three pre Wimbledon tournaments and notified to whether or not we would have to qualify.  It was an incentive to do well. We won the doubles and I got to the finals of the singles in Bristol.   We then played at Beckenham. We did okay, but not great.  When we arrived in London, we had not arranged for accommodations.  So we had to find a place to live.  Thus began our search for a place suitable for both of us and something we could afford.  I had $1400.00 which had to last three weeks.  We finally found a bed and breakfast apartment where we could stay the entire three weeks which was in our modest budget.  It was not the Ritz – one pound a day bed and breakfast including 354 stairs to our apartment with a shared bath one floor lower.   Sure felt sorry for myself graduation night.

The second tournament before Wimbledon was at Queen’s Club in London.  It is the first opportunity to practice at Wimbledon.  We did okay at Queen’s and were notified that we had been accepted into the main draw at Wimbledon. I was entered in the singles and doubles. Rafe entered only the doubles.  Then it was time for “ The Championships”.

We arrived at the hallowed grounds of The All England Club not knowing what lay ahead for us.  Raphael and I were drawn against two English players (Humphrey Truman and Gerald Oakley) both strapping Englishmen who were 6”4 and 6’5” and they would just bash serves at us.  After 4 ½ hours on Court 14, we prevailed 16-14 in the 5th set.  That match enabled us to move on to the second round to face the Italian Davis Cup Team, Nikki Pietrangeli and Orlando Sirola and we won that match, which was played on Court One, 6-0 in the 5th.  Next, we played the Swedish Davis Cup Team, Jan Lundquist and Ulf Schmidt and beat them in 5 sets.

moved on to the 4th round and played the South African Davis Cup Team, Gordon Forbes and Abe Segal.  We beat them in 4 sets and that put us into the semi-finals against Rod Laver and Bob Mark and we won that match on Center Court.  That match put us into the finals – we were unseeded and I was 17 and Rafe was 20.  We were to play Mike Davies and Bobby Wilson who were England’s Davis Cup Team.  England desperately wanted a title in the men’s events since they had not had a winner since Fred Perry in 1936.   We won the match.  I looked around me at the people crowded into the Center Court stands.  I had been warned about looking around while I was playing. Probably a good thing I didn’t!     An interesting sideline – Rafe and I were assigned locker room B.  After our successful first week, as a reward, we were offered to move to locker room a (home to all of the star players).  We gratefully declined because we had made friends with the attendants in locker room B (and also, we were superstitious).

After bowing to the royalty,   we went up to the Royal Box where we met the Duchess of Kent who presented us with our trophies.  What a surreal trip for a 17 year old from Bakersfield, California. 

Wimbledon Jacket
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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