Wimbledon, Australian Champ Alex Olmedo Passes Away

December 10, 2020

The International Tennis Hall of Fame mourns the loss of Hall of Famer Alejandro “Alex” Olmedo, who passed away on December 9, following a battle with brain cancer.

A champion at both Wimbledon and the Australian Nationals in 1959, Olmedo was a fast, athletic player who reached the world No. 2 ranking. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987.

“Alex Olmedo came from humble beginnings and he made sacrifices and worked hard to chase his dreams of a tennis career, ultimately becoming a major champion and Hall of Famer. He was a terrific player and a Davis Cup hero,” stated International Tennis Hall of Fame President Stan Smith. “Personally, we shared a love for the USC Trojans, Davis Cup competition, and tennis overall. He was a great champion, a great friend, and he will be missed.”

Originally from Arequipa, Peru, Olmedo was first introduced to the sport by his father, who taught tennis at a local club. Olmedo won the club championship at just 14 years of age, and word began to spread of his talent. When it became clear he would need to move in order to advance his tennis, local supporters put together $700 to help. In 1954, a 17-year-old Olmedo, who spoke no English at the time, used the funds to board a ship from Lima, Peru to Havana, Cuba, then onto a plane to Miami, and finally a bus to Los Angeles, eager to immerse himself in the thriving Southern California tennis world.

Nicknamed “The Chief” due to his Incan heritage, Olmedo worked at a tennis shop and went to night school to learn English. In 1956, he enrolled at the University of Southern California, where he went on to win the NCAA singles and doubles championships in 1956 and 1958.

Southern California Tennis “Czar” Perry T. Jones, a powerful tennis leader in the area, tapped Olmedo as one of the preeminent players of the time and he lobbied hard to make him part of the United States Davis Cup team, despite his Peruvian roots. Jones successfully argued that Olmedo should be allowed to play for the United States because he had lived in the country for three years and was eligible for citizenship, and because Peru did not have a Davis Cup team.

Jones’ insight into Olmedo’s talent was spot on. The Chief led the US to the 1958 Davis Cup championship, personally winning all three points needed (two singles and one doubles) to clinch the title and break a three-year run by the Australians.

Olmedo also captured the US Nationals doubles title that year, partnered with his Davis Cup teammate, Ham Richardson.

Olmedo topped off his great 1958 with an incredible 1959. That year, he won both the Australian Championships and Wimbledon, where he defeated a young Rod Laver in the final. He was a finalist at the US Nationals as well.

Olmedo turned pro in 1960, leaving behind his amateur career and the opportunity to compete in the major tournaments to instead be able to make a living by competing on the barnstorming professional circuits.

Upon retiring from the pro tour in 1965, Olmedo became the Director of Tennis at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where he taught tennis for more than 25 years. He counted Hollywood elites such as Katharine Hepburn, Robert Duvall, and Chevy Chase, and business tycoons Sumner Redstone and Kirk Kerkorian among his students.

Olmedo is survived by his daughters, Amy and Angela, and his son Alejandro, Jr., as well as four grandchildren. He was previously married to Ann Pierce Olmedo. Memorial services are to be determined.