Curator's Corner: Alex Olmedo's Winning Spikes

12/14/2017 Curator's Corner

In 1958, the United States played in their unprecedented fifteenth of sixteen consecutive Challenge Rounds against Australia for the Davis Cup title. The Challenge Round, which existed from the competition’s inception until 1972, allowed the reigning Davis Cup-champion team a bye into the finals, instead of starting in round one.

Australia won nine of these sixteen meetings, but was denied in 1958, largely due to the addition of native-Peruvian Alex Olmedo and his captain, Perry Jones. Jones knew that Olmedo, a student USC, had been in the country continuously for three years, making him eligible for citizenship. Olmedo never became a citizen, but thanks to Jones' hard lobbying, he was permitted to play for the United States. 

Jones was spot on in pushing for Olmedo to be on the team. "The Chief" as he was dubbed, due to his Incan ancestry and appearance, ended up being the hero for the Americans that year. Olmedo won both of his singles matches, and the doubles match with Ham Richardson, to collect all three points necessary to win the title. He was up against a daunting task, playing against highly successful Hall of Famers including his fellow eventual Davis Cuppers, Mal Anderson, Ashley Cooper, and Neale Fraser. The Australian team was captained by Harry Hopman, who led them to fifteen total Davis Cup victories from 1950-1967.

On day one of Brisbane, Australia’s first time hosting the Challenge Round, overnight rain caused the grass court at Milton Courts to be extremely slippery. Both Olmedo and Anderson wore spikes for their singles match, Olmedo opting for the shoes for the first time in his career. Today, the spikes that carried Olmedo and the Americans to victory are displayed at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, where fans can learn more about Alex and his place in tennis history. 

Alex Olmedo ended his Davis Cup career the next year, compiling a 7-2 record, going 5-1 in singles, and 2-1 in doubles. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987. In December 2017, he was honored in a special celebration at Los Angeles Tennis Club, where he received his official Hall of Fame ring.


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During the summer of 1987, Alex Olmedo stood next to Stan Smith when they were both inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame as members of the same induction class. On Friday, December 8, 2017, the duo once again shared the stage at the Los Angeles Tennis Club when Smith presented Olmedo with his official Hall of Fame Ring during a special evening at the historic tennis club.

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