Oct. 25, 2020

Don't Look Around

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Hear about concentration through a powerful story about Dennis playing at Wimbledon as a 17-year-old in 1960 and what he discovered.

Coach: Dennis Ralston, American tennis legend and Hall of Famer.
Bio:Right-handed, former American tennis legend whose playing career spanned the 1960s and 1970s. NCAA titles and USC, five major doubles crowns, and Davis Cup wins for the United States both as a player and captain. Coached by the great Pancho Gonzales. As a 17-year-old in 1960, he and 21-year-old Osuna became the second-youngest Wimbledon Gentleman champions in history. After retirement in 1977, he coached Chris Evert, Gabriela Sabatini, and Yannick Noah, then embarking on a college coaching career at SMU. Joined International Hall of Fame in 1987.

Birthplace: USA

Length: 3 min 58 sec
Theme: Concentration

Other tracks by Dennis Ralston:All The Little Things, Don't Look Around, Best Of Five Sets.

You might like:People Watching You.


When I was 17, I was lucky enough to get a trip to Wimbledon to play in the All England - great event there at Wimbledon. And, I was the National Junior Champion of the United States and (and_ I was the number one Southern California men's player.

But, I had certainly had no idea that that year 1960 I'd be going to Wimbledon. I was still in high school. So, I had to give up my high school graduation, which people say, well, I sure would just go to Wimbledon, but it was a big deal for me. And to leave. I left five weeks early before school was out and (and) so I went to England and was 10 rackets and flew over the pole and on a BOAC and arrive in London and never been overseas before.

And, our first tournament was in Manchester. And. so we go to Manchester. And, we find out that we're not even accepted at Wimbledon yet. And, we find out from the officials that they're going to look at our results in the next three tournaments and (and) make a decision whether we're going to be in or not. So that was a big surprise and put a little pressure on us. But, I actually played well in the singles. I think I got to the quarterfinals. And my partner, Rafael Osuna, and I, I think got to the semis and we did well in the tournament's coming up to Wimbledon. So, we were in.

The interesting thing in those days (1960), we went to London, and we didn't have a place to stay. And, so we were looking for places and we ended up staying right across from Earls Court Air Terminal. We stayed in a bed and breakfast, one pound a night ($2 and 40 cents a night). And, we had to climb up 350 stairs to our room. There were no elevators, we had to go down one flight of stairs to the bathroom, no showers. And, so that was our home for two weeks.

We played our first match where nobody watching and we played two really good English players, Gerald Oakley and Humphrey Truman. We beat them 19-17 in the fifth. And, from then, it got easier. And, we played the South African Davis Cup team, the Italian Davis Cup team, the Swedish Davis Cup team. Then, in the semis, we played the Australian Davis Cup team of Rod Laver and Bob Mark on the center court at Wimbledon. And, we beat them 11-9 in the fifth.

All the American players when I first got my opportunity to play on the center court, a woman said: "Do not look around". Don't look at the people, because all you're gonna see is a bunch of eyes and you're gonna freak out. So I never looked. I never looked at anybody on the center court. My first year until after we had won, we beat the British Davis Cup team in the finals - Bobby Wilson and Mike Davies. And, I looked when I got to the Royal box where we got the trophies. And, the reason they said don't look is because there was a history of players just completely folding once they looked around and saw 14,000 people looking at them. They just totally collapsed, they couldn't play their matches are over like 30 minutes. So, I was determined not to be one of those players. And it was a good lesson for me in learning that concentration is an acquired skill. You got to work on it just like you work on your serve. And, so I worked on that. And I knew when I played my best, I was really focused on what's going on the court and nothing else. I didn't let anything else interfere or bother me.

Although it's a challenge because, at Wimbledon, those airplanes are flying over all the time. And, later on in my career when I was sort of used to Wimbledon, I would look at those planes and say: "Hmm, if I lose this match, I'll be on the next flight to LA. If I win, it'll be another day or two hopefully". So, you know that's shows how your mind and your concentration can wander even at a high level.