‘Very gratifying’: La Jollan Rob Strasberg serves himself a national tennis win
La Jollan Rob Strasberg is celebrating his first national tennis championship at age 52.
Strasberg, who had never entered a national competition before, won at the U.S. Tennis Association’s Senior 50+ tournament, held in April in Orlando, Fla. He beat out 31 other players in the tournament’s highest National Tennis Rating Program division, 4.5, which he equated to “a high club-level tennis player. … It was a lot of fun.”
To qualify for the USTA tournament, Strasberg played on a regional team and won similar 50-and-older tournaments at places like Point Loma’s Barnes Tennis Center.
Strasberg also plays in a league that isn’t USTA-related, but his ratings there are still considered in the association’s qualifications, he said.
Entering the competition was “really exciting,” Strasberg said. When he learned about the tournament, he applied through the Southern California USTA Division, which selected him to represent the organization nationally.
The tournament’s location handed Strasberg the bonus of a family reunion: His parents and brother live in Orlando and Strasberg hadn’t seen them since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The first person I shared the championship trophy with was my father at his Alzheimer’s memory care facility,” Strasberg said. “While he certainly didn’t understand what I had won, it was very emotional for me. We shared a wonderful moment together. ... He taught me the game.”
Strasberg’s father, Ron, imparted those tennis lessons when Strasberg was 7 or 8. “But I quit tennis when I was 12 because I was way too competitive and I was smashing my racquets and it was mentally too tough,” Strasberg said. “I went to join and be with my friends in team sports.”
Strasberg, who was raised on Long Island, N.Y., took up lacrosse but returned to the tennis court as an adult. “When I was 25, I put down my lacrosse stick and picked up a tennis racquet and started to hit against a wall,” he said.
“I said, ‘I think I missed this,’ and I fell in love with tennis again.”
Strasberg has maintained his love for tennis throughout his adulthood, which includes marriage to his wife, Treger, founder of Humble Design, a nonprofit that furnishes housing for recently homeless families.
Strasberg is chief executive of Humble Design. He left the advertising agency he had owned to help grow the organization from one warehouse in Detroit, where he and Treger lived, to locations in Chicago, Cleveland, Seattle and San Diego.
The Strasbergs moved to La Jolla nearly four years ago, as Treger wanted to return to her native San Diego. Their two children are students at La Jolla Country Day School.
Strasberg said La Jolla has “the best tennis weather in the world. It’s a beautiful temperature, it makes you want to be outside playing tennis all the time, and nothing gets in the way. … I feel lucky every time I walk on the tennis court here, having had to live and play tennis in New York and Michigan.”
He currently plays five days a week at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club and credits the club and its “amazing” pros with improving his game.
“I think the competitive players at the club elevated my game as well,” he said. “It’s just a really healthy tennis environment for people who love tennis.”
Another boon to his game, Strasberg said, is playing in California, on only hard courts, which makes tennis “much faster and … much more reactive.”
The Orlando tournament featured clay courts, which “create a different challenge for the game,” he said.
Strasberg took a few lessons on the only clay courts he could find in San Diego — at Rancho Valencia in Rancho Santa Fe — to increase his comfort level. But the final day of the competition saw a torrential downpour, forcing the game inside to a hard court, he said.
“I felt comfortable” on the hard court, he said, and ended up winning the final against Robert Golsmith, a teaching pro most of the year on indoor hard courts in Cleveland.
“It was exciting because he was a great guy,” Strasberg said. “Every point was super close, and we went to a third-set tiebreaker, which I won.” He said the two hugged at the end of the match.
Strasberg “was humble from beginning to end,” Golsmith said, “and through it all a ferocious competitor. [He] was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of competing against.”
Golsmith captured a photo of Strasberg with the championship trophy.
Strasberg said winning the title was “an exciting athletic moment in my life, and to do it at 52 years old felt very gratifying.” ◆
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