Updated: Jul 10, 2021
Tennis lost a legend today. It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of 2016 Texas Tennis Hall of Fame member, Dennis Ralston, who passed away at the age of 78, from a battle with cancer. Ralston is survived by his wife of 56 years, Linda, and their three children, Mike, Lori and Angela.
Richard "Dennis" Ralston was born on July 27, 1942, in Bakersfield, California. He was coached as a young player by Pancho Gonzales and later attended the University of Southern California where he won NCAA titles in 1962, 1963 and 1964.
Ralston had the rare opportunity to lead U.S. Davis Cup teams to victory as both a player and captain. As a doubles player alongside Chuck McKinley, he made his strongest showing. They won the U.S. title three times, in 1961, 1963 and 1964, and were in finalist in 1962.
Ralston was a member of the Handsome Eight, the original eight players signed to the World Championship Tennis (WCT) tour in 1967. He and the seven other pioneers of the professional game helped pave the way for the current day ATP World Tour.
Between 1968 and 1971 Ralston served as coach of winning U.S. Davis Cup teams and in 1972 he became captain for a four year term - winning the Cup in 1972 and reaching the finals in 1973. His coolness and calming manner in the face of an uproarious crowd and patriotic local line judge in Bucharest was a highlight of the 1972 Cup victory over Romania.
A slim 6’2” tall, Ralston was a stylish stroker with a piercing forehand. He was a fine server and excellent volleyer who was in the U.S. Top Ten for seven straight years. He was the first to be No. 1 three straight years (1964, 1965 and 1966) since Don Budge (1936-1938). His highest world ranking was No. 5. Ralston and his dad, Bob Ralston, won the U.S. Father and Son title in 1964.
Ralston went on to make a name as an outstanding educator and influence while serving as the men's tennis coach at Southern Methodist University from 1981-1989 and 1991-1993. In 1983 he was named the NCAA National Coach of the Year and led the Mustangs to a second place national finish, best in school history.
Additional accomplishments include: Wimbledon Doubles Champion at 17 years of age in 1960, French Open Doubles Champion in 1966, Wimbledon Singles Finalist in 1966 and induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987.