By Gideon Rubin
Cathie Anderson grew up in the Midwest when the opportunity to develop her tennis skills was restricted by a harsh climate and the limited facilities of the times.
“We put our rackets away in September and didn’t take them out again until May or June,” she said. “There was no such thing as indoor courts back then.”
Anderson, who was raised in Dayton, Ohio, has found no such limitations since moving to the West Coast to attend UC Berkeley where, in the early 1960s, she emerged from obscurity to become an amateur star. Her collegiate career was highlighted by reaching the NCAA individuals finals one year.
“Once I got out here I worked hard,” she said. “I played a lot once I got to play year-round.”
Anderson, now 70, still plays as much as ever.
Next week, she’ll represent the United States Tennis Association at the 33rd International Tennis Federation Super-Seniors World Team Championships in Vienna, Austria. The Sept. 9 - 14 tournament will be held simultaneously in Austria and the Czech Republic.
She will compete as an individual in the Althea Gibson Cup team on the women’s over-70-circuit. Anderson is among four players who will represent the United States in the 60, 65, 70, 75 and 80 and older age groups (for men and women).
The ITF Super-Seniors World Team Championships is the senior tennis equivalent of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup. It is considered the ITF Seniors circuit’s most prestigious event.
Anderson has been competing on the senior circuits for decades. She won the over-50 individuals world title in Barcelona in the early 1990s.
Anderson is the USTA’s No. 2 ranked singles player. Her doubles partner, Donna Fales of Florida, is No. 1. Anderson and Fales are the USTA’s top-ranked doubles team.
Anderson wasn’t a complete novice when she tried out for the tennis team at Berkeley, but she acknowledged playing under-18 juniors tournaments didn’t exactly portend national stardom.
Anderson has been competing in the USTA circuit since her late 20s, when she was still living in Northern California, and started playing in senior events a few years after that. A three- or four-year period during which she started a family in her mid 20s is about the only time she can remember that she didn’t play competitive tennis.
“I’m just sort of a competitive person, I like competing,” she said. “I got to go to fun places and travel with different people.”
And it seems elite-level competition has taken Anderson just about everywhere.
Her passport is filled with stamps from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and Croatia, among other far-flung destinations around the world.
“I’ve been all over the place playing tennis,” she said.
Anderson ranks the social aspect of playing on the super senior circuit right up there with the fitness benefits.
She remains an avid tennis fan, traveling to London to attend Wimbledon earlier this year, and the U.S. Open in New York earlier this month with her tennis pals.
“We have fun going out to the matches, sightseeing and shopping,” she said.
Although technically a professional, Anderson said the rewards for winning international tournaments don’t include big prize money.
“When you say you’re a professional [tennis player] everyone thinks we’re making millions of dollars, but that’s not the case,” she said.
“We try to get into the top in our age group, and then the USTA will send us someplace nice to play our international event, but we really don’t make much money. It’s a way to travel and still compete.”
Anderson has proven herself to be a formidable opponent to those of all ages. She recently defeated a player much younger at an inter-age group tournament in Los Angeles.
“She cried,” Anderson said.
One of the best things about the super senior circuit is that the clock resets every five years. At 70, Anderson is among the youngest players in her division.
“The first year or so [in an age group] it’s much easier, you’re the youngest one,” Anderson said. “By the time you get to the fifth year you’re the oldest one and it gets harder; then you start to get young again because it changes every five years.”
Anderson acknowledged she never imagined that she’d still be competing at her age. But she has no plans of giving the sport up anytime soon.
“My mother and father used to play a little bit, but at 45 or 40 they said ‘Oh, that’s too old, we’re starting golf now.’
“I’m not quite ready for golf yet.”