Class of 1973
Grand Slam Results
5-time major champion, 4-time finalist
Member of the U.S. Davis Cup Team 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938
Member of the 1937 and 1938 U.S. Championship Davis Cup Team
Overall record: 6-3
Singles record: 0-1
Doubles record: 6-2
Constantine Gene Mako was earmarked for a huge career in tennis. He was an athletic 6-footer whose game was based on power – big serve, volley, overhead. Playing for the University of Southern California, he had established himself as a force to watch, winning both the NCAA singles and doubles titles in 1934. He advanced to the fourth round of both Wimbledon and the U.S. Nationals in 1935, respectively losing to Gottfried von Cramm and Wilmer Allison.
As a youth, Mako pounded his serve too often and too hard, ultimately leading to a persistent shoulder injury. Then in 1936 while playing at a tournament in London, he took a nasty spill on the grass court and severely injured his shoulder, robbing him of his biggest weapon – power. “Everybody said I had the best serve and overhead in the world,” Mako told the Los Angeles Times in 2007, “and I went from that to nothing. Mentally, it was a terrible thing.”
With a promising singles career now in jeopardy, Mako turned his focus to doubles, teaming with his close friend Don Budge. The two were a formidable doubles team, appearing in seven major finals, winning back-to-back Wimbledon championships in 1937 and 1938 and two U.S. National Championships in 1936 and 1938. Mako and Alice Marble won the Mixed Doubles Championships at the U.S. Nationals in 1936, defeating Budge and Sarah Palfrey, 6-3, 6-2.
Mako was born in Hungary – leaving after World War I with his family and for a brief time resided in Argentina – and eventually settled in Los Angeles, California. His teenage playing years were prosperous, winning the boys’ singles title at the U.S. National Championships in 1932 and 1934. He and Budge formed a lifelong friendship as teenagers playing on the public courts in Los Angeles.
In singles play, Mako had enough resolve and strength in his shoulder to advance to the Australian Championship quarterfinals (1938), the French Championship third round (1938), Wimbledon’s fourth round (1935, 1937, 1938) and the finals of the 1938 U.S. Nationals, where he faced his doubles partner Budge. He stormed through the field, knocking off the No. 11 and No. 6 seeds Frank Kovacs and Franjo Puncec respectively, in straight sets. In the final, Mako played like a zealot, but fell 6-3, 6-8, 6-2, 6-1, providing Budge with the victory that earned him the major. Based on his quality year, Mako rose to No. 3 in the U.S. in 1938.
Mako played for the U.S. Davis Cup Team from 1935 to 1938, helping the Americans win the championship in 1937 and 1938. The 1937 4-1 victory over Great Britain ended a 10-year winless streak (1926, 4-1 over France), and the 1938 victory was earned over Australia, 3-2.
Mako served in the Navy during World War II and briefly played professional tennis, reaching the quarterfinals of the U.S. Pro Championships in 1943. Mako loved the arts and music, particularly jazz composition, and after his playing days became an art teacher, collector, and dealer and set up the Gene Mako Galleries in Los Angeles.
Australian Championships: QF 1938
U.S. Nationals: F 1938
Australian Championships: SF 1938
French Championships: F 1938
Wimbledon: W 1937, 1938
U.S. Nationals: W 1936, 1938
Australian Championships: SF 1938
French Championships: SF 1938
Wimbledon: SF 1937
U.S. Nationals: W 1936