Former USC men’s tennis star Gene Mako, the 1934 NCAA singles and doubles champion who won doubles titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, died on June 14 in Los Angeles. He was 97.
Mako possessed one of the world’s best serves and strongest overheads until a right shoulder injury suffered in 1936 limited his power, but he still found success in the sport. He teamed with Don Budge to win the Wimbledon doubles crowns in 1937 and 1938 and the U.S. Open doubles titles in 1936 and 1938. The duo also was runner-up at the 1935 and 1937 U.S. Opens and 1938 French Open. Mako won the 1936 U.S. Open mixed doubles title with Alice Marble.
Mako paired with Budge on four U.S. Davis Cup teams, including the 1937 and 1938 championship squads.
In 1938, the unseeded Mako lost to Budge in the U.S. Open singles final as Budge completed the first Grand Slam in tennis history. Mako rose to a No. 8 world ranking (No. 3 in the United States) that year.
Mako was born in Budapest and then lived in Italy and Argentina before coming to Los Angeles as a youngster. He lettered at USC for three years (1934, 1936 and 1937). After capturing the 1934 NCAA singles title, he teamed with Phil Castlen to capture the doubles title that year.
He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1973 and the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999. After his playing career, he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, owned a tennis court construction business and then became an art dealer.
Mako is survived by his wife, Laura.