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Dennis Ralston, Tennis Devotee August 26, 1963

These days Dennis Ralston awakens to the splendor of Colorado
Springs. But the setting wasn't nearly as divine in 1972, when
he and the U.S. Davis Cup team, which he captained, ventured to
Bucharest's Progresul Sports Club to try to keep tennis's top
international prize from a Romanian squad that included Ilie
Nastase and Ion Tiriac and was aided by linesmen responsible for
more home cooking than Emeril Lagasse. "We knew they were
cheating us," Ralston says. "No one gave us a chance to win."

Yet the Americans did just that when Stan Smith blasted the
glowering Tiriac 6-0 in the fifth set of the fourth and deciding
match, despite hitting second serves safely down the middle to
avoid Romania-friendly line calls. For Ralston, now 57, the wild
victory ranks as a highlight of a life that has revolved around
tennis balls since his parents loaded him onto a bus from
Bakersfield to Los Angeles, all alone, at 10, for a junior
tournament. Ralston won a Wimbledon doubles championship at 17
and made nine appearances in Grand Slam finals (one in singles,
four in doubles and four in mixed doubles). He was later a
member of World Championship Tennis's Handsome Eight, the
barnstormers who in 1968 launched a successful pro circuit. He
then turned to coaching, guiding Chris Evert from '82 to '89 and
the SMU men's team for 12 seasons.

For the last six years Ralston has been director of tennis at
The Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs, where he lives with
Linda, his wife of 36 years. The Ralstons have three grown
children--including son Mike, a tennis pro at the resort--and
six grandchildren. Dennis runs camps year-round and holds
celebrity tournaments on The Broadmoor's 12 courts. He continues
his longtime devotion to youth tennis by serving on the board of
Pikes Peak Community Tennis and putting on free clinics.

Ralston still feels that Davis Cup competition, in which he
helped the U.S. win six titles from 1960 through '75 as a
player, coach and captain, is the peak of his sport. Ralston
says it bothers him that today some American players need the
lure of $100,000 per tie to participate, and that players use
fatigue and scheduling conflicts as reasons to opt out of
representing the U.S. "Take the money you're paying the players
and put it in grassroots programs, and you could have kids
playing all summer long," Ralston says. "We might lose in Davis
Cup for several years, but so what? By then the whole thing
would be changed because guys would learn what it means to play
for their country."

--Pete McEntegart



It irks him that some American players opt out of representing
their country in the Davis Cup.