Class of 1987
World No. 2 (1959)
Grand Slam Results
3-time major champion, 3-time finalist
Overall Record: 90-85
Singles Record: 64-50
Doubles Record: 26-35
Member of the American Davis Cup Team 1958-1959
Member of the 1958 American Championship Davis Cup Team
Overall Record: 7-2
Singles Record: 5-1
Doubles Record: 2-1
In 1959, Alex Olmedo made a pilgrimage to Centre Court at the All England Club and achieved a feat that no Peruvian player had accomplished before or since: He won the Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Singles Championship. He took his fast and aggressive game, and rocked the tennis world.
Olmedo always preferred playing on fast surfaces where his athleticism could take over a match, and he arrived as the No. 1 seed at Wimbledon after winning the Australian Championships over native Neale Fraser, 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. At Wimbledon Olmedo won all of his first four rounds, except the third, in straight sets. He found Luis Ayala of Chile his most competitive match of the championships and a pesky out in the quarterfinals, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Next came No. 8 seed Roy Emerson, always a gamer, but Olmedo dismantled the Aussie easily, 6-4, 6-0, 6-4. A young and unseeded Rod Laver awaited Olmedo in the finals, but couldn’t handle the Peruvian’s attacking style and quick reflexes, falling 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.
Olmedo’s victory made a big splash, but the ripples didn’t last long. He was an active amateur playing for just two years and then turned pro in 1960. His first major victory at the Australian Championships came as the No. 2 seed over the top seeded Fraser. His third round, quarterfinal, and semifinal matches were so exhausting that the final seemed like a lazy practice session, all respect to Fraser. In the third round, Aussie John Pearce squandered a 2-1 sets lead and lost 5-7, 6-3, 0-6, 6-2, 6-2. In the quarterfinals, Sweden’s Ulf Schmidt won the first two sets 6-4, 9-7, and then lost the last three sets, 6-3, 6-3, 7-5. In the semifinals, American Barry MacKay made Olmedo play the full gamut a third straight time, but even he couldn’t contain the hard-charging Olmedo, losing 3-6, 8-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.
Fresh off back-to-back major championships, Olmedo looked at the 1959 U.S. Championships to be among a select group to win three major titles. Unsurprisingly he was seeded No. 1 and his road to the finals wasn’t a particularly difficult one – it was sprinkled with two four set victories – until he met American Ron Holmberg in the semifinals. Olmedo won the match 15-13, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, but the effort likely drained him against a revenge-minded Fraser in the final. The No. 2 seeded Aussie won in four sets, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4. It had been a long road for Olmedo at the U.S. event. He had first played at Forest Hills as a 15-year-old in 1951 and was defeated by Jacque Grigry, 6-0, 6-4, 6-1.
In doubles competition, he and partner Ham Richardson won the 1958 U.S. National’s Men’s Doubles Championship over Sam Giammalva and Barry Mackay, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. The following year he teamed with Butch Buchholz, but Aussies Emerson and Fraser stopped the duo in the final in a lengthy battle, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, 4-6, 5-7.
Olmedo was introduced to tennis by his father, a resident pro at a local club in Arequipa, Peru. He had settled in the United States and played for University of Southern California, where he won the NCAA Intercollegiate titles in both singles and doubles in 1956 and 1958. Olmedo was part of the tennis factory built by Southern California tennis czar Perry T. Jones. When the 70-year old Jones was tabbed as captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team in 1958, he fought tirelessly and successfully to land Olmedo on the team, citing the fact that his star pupil had more than three years of continuous residence, thus making him a U.S. citizen. Furthermore, his native country didn’t field a team, Jones argued, making him eligible to play for the U.S. Meanwhile, Olmedo had staunchly refused to file for U.S. citizenship, saying he was content to remain a Peruvian citizen. His appointment on the U.S. team was controversial, so much that Sports Illustrated featured Olmedo on the cover of the September 7, 1959 issue with a report by Bill Talbert entitled: The Enigma of Alex Olmedo. The magazine followed with subsequent story on October 20, posing a question among the tennis fraternity on whether it was right for “Peru’s Alex Olmedo to be selected for the U.S. Cup team.”
The big-serving Olmedo, nicknamed “The Chief” because of his Inca heritage, single-handedly led the U.S. to the Davis Cup Championship against Australia in Brisbane, winning two singles and one doubles match. The calculating Jones slipped him into the No. 1 singles slot and dropped Ham Richardson, the top-ranked U.S. player at the time, into doubles competition. Olmedo defeated Mal Anderson in four sets on the first day of competition. On the second day, Olmedo and Richardson defeated Anderson and Fraser in a marathon match, 10-12, 3-6, 16-14, 6-3, 7-5, the sixth longest Davis Cup doubles match in history. Leading 2-1, the U.S sent Olmedo into final match against Ashley Cooper, and he came away with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 8-6 victory. The U.S. clinched a 3-2 victory and ended the Australia’s four match winning streak.
Olmedo was the No. 1 ranked player in the U.S. in 1959 and No. 2 in the world in 1959. He turned pro in 1960, leaving the amateur circuit behind. In his first year on the tour, he defeated Tony Trabert 7-5, 6-4 to win the U.S. Pro Championship. He retired from the pro tour in 1965, and became the teaching pro at the Beverly Hills Hotel, working with Hollywood elites such as Katharine Hepburn, Robert Duvall, and Chevy Chase.
Australian Championships: W 1959
Wimbledon: W 1959
U.S. Nationals F 1959
U.S. Nationals: W 1958
U.S. Nationals: F 1958