La Jollan scores a No. 2 national tennis ranking at 91

La Jolla resident Sally Fuller, 91, is ranked No. 2 nationally in tennis for her age group.
(Jeff Mangelsdorf)

La Jolla resident Sally Fuller, 91, has spent the past half of her life playing tennis and in recent years has managed to turn her pastime into a national top two ranking.

Over the May 15 weekend at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, Fuller entered the Women’s 90 Singles division of the U.S. Tennis Association’s May Hard Court National Championships for women 50 and older.

Fuller, a Realtor by trade, came in second to Janet Hubbard of Huntington Beach, solidifying Fuller’s 2021 ranking as the country’s No. 2 women’s tennis player in her age group.

Beach & Tennis Club tennis director Conan Lorenzo said “everyone was super excited” for the tournament, since the COVID-19 pandemic had caused many tournaments to be canceled.

“I’ve been playing in those [national] tournaments since I was 75,”said Fuller, who added that she’ll play in the USTA National Senior Women’s Clay Court Championships in Houston in September and the USTA National Women’s 90 Grass Championships in Rancho Mirage in December.

Sally Fuller says she loves the mental and physical challenges of tennis.
(Jeff Mangelsdorf)

Fuller, who moved to La Jolla in 1975, said she was ranked sixth nationally two years ago. Coached by her son Jeff Mangelsdorf, a former member of the UCLA tennis team, she plays tennis four days a week, both at LJBTC and the courts at her condominium community.

Fuller said she enjoys tennis for the mental and physical challenges. “I love it because it keeps you active and it keeps your mind alert. You have to be alert and know how to return the other person’s serve,” she said. She’s currently learning the slice serve.

She first picked up a tennis racquet at age 40 while living in San Marino. “A lot of my friends were joining,” she said. “It was a good activity, and in tennis, you get to exercise in one and a half hours,” which she found preferable to her five-hour golf games.

She said she first entered tournaments 16 years ago at Mangelsdorf’s encouragement. “It’s just great fun,” she said. “You meet people from all over the country. I have friends all over.”

Fuller estimated she’s played in 15 tournaments and recalls one a few years ago in which she had to default due to the heat. The organizers scheduled a game in La Quinta for 11:30 on a September morning, when it was 103 degrees.

“I had to play on the center court,” she said. “It was so hot.”

Through challenges like that and maneuvering on grass courts when she’s accustomed to hard courts, Fuller has learned the value of persistence, she said.

To others searching for similar success, Fuller has this advice: “Keep going and keep active, because the whole idea of living longer is eating well and exercising well.”

Though she loves that tennis “only takes one other person to play with,” she encourages players to seek multiple opportunities to “meet different people and figure out what they’re doing so you can beat them.” ◆