Dennis Ralston, a four-time NCAA champion at USC and a five-time Grand Slam doubles champion who was one of the initial players signed to the professional World Championship Tennis tour in the 1960s, died Sunday (Dec. 6) of cancer in Austin, Tex. He was 78. Ralston helped USC win NCAA and conference men’s tennis team titles in 1962, 1963 and 1964. He also captured the NCAA singles and doubles crowns in 1963 and 1964.
He won five Grand Slam doubles titles: 1960 Wimbledon, 1961-63-64 U.S. Open and 1966 French Open. The Wimbledon title was with his former USC teammate, Rafael Osuna. Ralston also was a three-time Grand Slam finalist in mixed doubles.
As a singles player, Ralston reached the 1966 Wimbledon final. He was considered the highest-ranked American player for three years in the 1960s, long before the sport’s computerized rankings system began.
Ralston turned pro after his runner-up singles finish at Wimbledon in 1966, signing on with the WCT tour in 1967. The circuit began the following year and lasted until the emergence of the current ATP Tour in 1990. He had a career singles record of 576-251 and won 41 titles. His career mark in doubles was 125-87.
He helped the U.S. win the Davis Cup title in 1963. He captained the team from 1972-75, including its 1972 win over Romania in the final.
The Davis Cup was the beginning of Ralston’s coaching career. He spent six years coaching Chris Evert and also coached Roscoe Tanner, Yannick Noah and Gabriela Sabatini. He served as men’s coach at SMU during two stints in the 1980s and ’90s. For the last decade, he was on the teaching staff at Grey Rock Tennis Club in Austin.
Ralston was inducted into the ITA Men’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame in 1983, the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987 and the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995.
He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Linda, as well as son Mike and daughters Lori and Angela.