Gene Mako, who won doubles championships at the United States Open and Wimbledon, died Friday of pneumonia. He was 97.
Mako, who graduated from Glendale High in 1932, died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Times. Mako was born Jan. 24, 1916, in Budapest, Hungary. As a child, he and his family moved to Argentina before settling in Los Angeles.
Mako was among the elite players to take to the tennis court in the 1930s. Mako was the 1934 NCAA singles and doubles champion while lettering at USC for three years (1934-36-37). He won a pair of Wimbledon (1937-38) and U.S. Open (1936 and 38, then known as the U.S. Nationals) doubles titles. In 1936, Mako won the regular and mixed doubles titles at the U.S. Open. He also competed on the U.S. Davis Cup team from 1935-38.
He was inducted into the Glendale High Athletic Hall of Fame and International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1969 and 1973, respectively. In 1999, he was enshrined into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame.
“He was a giant in the world of tennis and a very bright guy,” said Jim Pagliuso, a family friend of Mako. “He did so many things that led to him having a great career.
“I knew him all of my life and he was close friends with my family. He just loved to talk about different sports.”
Mako played four years of varsity tennis for Glendale.
“He had an incredible career the whole way through,” Glendale Athletic Director Pat Lancaster said. “He was another of those exceptional athletes to come out of the Glendale area at that time.
“He was like a big man on campus.”
After USC, where he captured the NCAA championship in singles and doubles with Phillip Caslin in 1934, Mako began his stellar professional career. He teamed with Don Budge to win four doubles titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. The duo won doubles at the U.S. Open in 1936 and 1938 and Wimbledon in 1937 and 1938. Mako worked with Alice Marble to capture the mixed doubles title at the 1936 U.S. Open.
In singles competition, Mako and Budge brought out the best in each other. In 1938, Budge was the first to win the grand slam — all four major titles — with the final coming against Mako at the U.S. Open in Forest Hills, N.Y.
Mako, a World War II veteran in the Navy, suffered a serious right-shoulder injury in 1936 that affected his career, but he still was able to flourish in doubles.
“I was a pretty happy-go-lucky guy and I was in very good shape, but I did not spend that much time working on my game,” Mako told the Times in 2007. “I did most everything I did with whatever talent I had.”
He is survived by his wife, Laura.
Pagliuso said funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.