Senior Spotlight: Suella Steel

A late starter to the game of tennis, Suella Steel has been doing plenty to make up for lost time as a U.S. Super Senior Cup representative for more than 25 years.

Back in September, La Jolla’s Steel led the U.S. 75-and Over Queens’ Cup team to the Super Senior World Team Championship in Umag, Croatia, as American teams won three of the eight titles at the 36th International Tennis Federation (ITF) event.

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Aging up never felt so good as it did this year as Steel and some of her teammates were playing in the 75s for the first time having moved up from the 70s. “We usually do really well the first two years after moving up,” said Steel, whose team beat France in the final, 3-0. “The third year it’s about 50-50 and then the last two years are really hard. We really dominated this year and didn’t lose a set.”

The tournament is the senior tennis equivalent of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup competitions, with top American tennis players representing their countries in the 65-, 70-, 75-, and 80-and-older age groups. The event is the most prestigious team competition on the ITF Seniors circuit.

Steel said she suffered through some injuries last year but managed to play in two USTA Senior National Tournaments, which is what is required to be eligible for a Cup team. “That’s the only reason I still play them,” she said. “Because I want to continue representing my country on a Cup team.”

Steel is originally from Atlanta and chose a different sport growing up as she was a national champion gymnast. Despite having a clay court in her backyard growing up, Steel didn’t start playing tennis until the age of 33 while living in Ft. Lauderdale.

“My dad and brother played, but I didn’t want to play,” she said, adding that she was immediately hooked on the game once she started playing. “If you’ve done another sport it can transfer over into tennis. Just that ability to compete and not get nervous and the footwork and balance. It all just fit right into tennis.”

Steel, who will be 75 in December, will leave for San Antonio and the Inner Sectionals on November 6. The event is one of the largest in the world for senior tennis players. “I am just so thankful for the SCTA and people like Annette Buck for making it possible to send us back to this event each year,” Steel said.

Steel, who has won 86 USTA gold balls, has lived in La Jolla since 1981, and is a member at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, where she won five straight National 50s Hardcourt singles titles at the club after her arrival.

She plays on the club’s 4.5-5.0 USTA League team and still teaches tennis several hours a week.

She was on staff as a teaching pro for 17 years at the Lomas Santa Fe Country Club. After retiring two years ago, sho now teaches at a little place near where she lives on Mt. Soledad at La Jolla Alta.

“I actually like teaching more than I like playing,” she said.

Steel has always found time to give back to the game as she has serverd on the USTA National Committee and has been a District Director in San Diego since 1986.

Steel’s teammates include Charleen Hillebrand of Harbor City, and Sheila Weinstock and Donna Fales. Steel concluded. “I’ve made some really good friends over the years. I hope to still be playing till the 80s.”

— Steve Pratt

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