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Former tennis champion Gene Mako passes away

Former tennis champion Gene Mako passes away

FORMER doubles tennis champion Gene Mako has passed away in the United States at the age of 97.

Mr. Mako was born in Hungary but moved to America as a young boy. He had  learned to play tennis on public courts in the Los Angeles area and by 12 was winning local tournaments.

At 18, he won the national collegiate singles title for Southern California and, with Phillip Caslin, won the doubles title. 

With a powerful serve the 6 foot tall Mako was set to become one of the game’s greats. But disaster struck while playing on a grass court in England in 1936 when he fell and badly injured a shoulder. The injury robbed him of the great power that he had previously been able to use to such devastating effect in his serving.

While his singles game would never be as good again, his longtime friend and fellow player Don Budge encouraged him to concentrate more on doubles. The pair had already forged a successful playing partnership and they went on to win the U.S. men’s doubles title in 1936 and 1938 and the Wimbledon doubles title in 1937 and 1938. They also played doubles for the U.S. Davis Cup team.

But Mr. Mako was to have one last tilt at a singles major in 1938 when he reached the final of the U.S. championships after producing a number of upsets. His opponent in the final was Don Budge who was attempting to be the first man to complete the Grand Slam in tennis having already won the Australian, French and Wimbledon titles.

Although the final was to be hard-fought, Budge clinched victory by three sets to one.

Mr. Mako was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1973.

After his playing days had ended, Mr. Mako had opened an art gallery in Los Angeles.

To view footage of Gene Mako and Don Budge playing doubles, click here.

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