Reflections On Bob Sherman

Most avid tennis players are introduced to the game at a very young age, and many pick up a racquet not too long after learning to walk. In the case of Bob Sherman – for many years a revered personality on the USTA/SCTA Senior Tennis Circuit – the gentleman’s game found him at the ripe young age of 30. A mere seven years later, Mr. Sherman qualified to play his first Wimbledon before amassing a record 125 gold balls at the competitive Senior level from 1965 to 2013, including five Grand Slams.

Bob Sherman passed away in December at the age of 97, just three years after his final gold ball triumph at the US Clay Court Nationals in 2013. A former basketball player, Mr. Sherman took up the game of tennis as a compliment to athletic careers in track and pro basketball. He adapted to the game with ease, and later competed at Wimbledon in 1957 and 1959 before his debut at the United States National Championship (US Open) in 1961. He is a distinguished member of the Basketball Hall of Fame at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and a 2009 inductee to the Southern California Senior Tennis Hall of Fame.

Mr. Sherman’s pursuit of the USTA Men’s “gold ball” record began with his first grass court win at the Nationals in Forest Hills NY, bursting onto the 45+ scene with subsequent clay and hard court titles in 1965. He would dominate 45 Indoor in 1968 and 1969, sweeping both singles and doubles crowns, and remained a force on the Indoor circuit throughout his career. In each of nine seasons from 1976 to 1985, Mr. Sherman earned the “gold ball” with Indoor victories – including both 55 & 60 Indoor crowns in the same year.

However, Bob Sherman’s success was not limited to the hard court. For four years after 1988, he tallied clay singles titles at 65 & 70 divisions, including both in 1991. He garnered eight gold balls in grass court singles from 2000-2010, plus four more in doubles.

In total, Mr. Sherman amassed nearly 250 wins, including 93 singles and 32 doubles gold balls. His final victory, a 90 Clay singles win in 2013, placed him one notch above the previous record holder, Floridian Gardnar Mulloy. Quite ironically, Mr. Sherman’s very first gold ball in 1965 was a victory over Mr. Mulloy.

It was his competitive nature that so effectively complimented Mr. Sherman’s athletic prowess. At a 2010 Senior event in Rancho Santa Fe, he described his play as “pathetic“ and told himself repeatedly, “you cannot play!” Mr. Sherman won the match 6-4, 6-0.

“It gets tougher every year,” Mr. Sherman once told a curious journalist. “But I will continue to play until I’m ready for the Wimbledon in the sky.”

It’s safe to say that Bob Sherman is climbing the rankings yet again.

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