By John Holland
LOS ANGELES - Alex Olmedo excelled at tennis at Modesto Junior College in the mid-1950s, then went on to win two of the world’s Grand Slam titles in one year.
Olmedo died Wednesday, Dec. 9, in Los Angeles from brain cancer at 84. He was a long-time resident of that area and a tennis instructor at the Beverly Hills Hotel for about 25 years.
The native of Peru was inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987. Olmedo also is in the MJC Athletics Hall of Fame. He was nicknamed “the chief” to honor his Incan heritage.
“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,” said a written statement from Stan Smith, president of the Rhode Island-based tennis hall.
PLAYING SINCE 9 IN PERU
He was born Alejandro Olmedo on March 24, 1936, in Arequipa, Peru. He was 9 when his father introduced him to tennis at a local club, and he won its championship at 14.
Club patrons were impressed by Olmedo’s skill, a 1998 story in Sports Illustrated said, so they collected $700 to help him pursue a tennis career in the United States.
At 17, Olmedo went by ship from Lima to Havana, via the Panama Canal. He then took a plane to Miami and a bus to California.
Olmedo was at MJC in 1954 and 1955, and was a finalist for a state title while playing for the Pirates. He moved on to the University of Southern California, where he won two NCAA titles in singles and two in doubles.
Olmedo spoke only Spanish when he left Peru, but he started learning English at night school in Los Angeles.
DAVIS CUP TITLE AND MORE
Olmedo was named to the U.S. Davis Cup team by his captain at USC, Perry Jones, in 1958. He help wrest the title from the powerful Australians.
That same year, Olmedo and Ham Richardson won the doubles title at the U.S. National Championships, now known as the U.S. Open.