Pro Envisions Club In Mashashimuet

Tennis is a sport you can play into your nineties
Weather permitting, Rob Kresberg, above, will have Mashashimuet’s eight Har-Tru courts and two hard courts up and running come May 1. Jack Graves

Rob Kresberg, who grew up playing tennis in the summers at the Bridgehampton Tennis and Surf Club, recently leased the Mashashimuet Park courts in Sag Harbor, and intends to create there “more of a club and community feel” than in the past.

“People used to play and then drive away, but we’d like them to hang around, with their friends and with their families,” he said during a conversation on Monday. To that end, he’s going to put up benches and tables with awnings to foster socializing. There will be plenty of round robins and tennis-themed events too, he added. 

Kresberg, whose older brother, Rich, owns Provisions in the Harbor, has taught tennis for the better part of the past 30 years, after having played a few years professionally and after having graduated from Columbia University, where he was the number-one singles player in his junior and senior years, and from the Lawrenceville preparatory school in Lawrenceville, N.J. He has been the tennis director at the Century Club in Purchase, N.Y., for the past 15 years.

His late father, Harold, was one of the Bridgehampton Tennis and Surf Club’s eight owners. Asked if he’d played with Paul Annacone as a kid, Kresberg, who’s 51 now, said, “Paul and I played in a club doubles tournament when I was 11 and he was 15. We got to the semifinals.”

Did he remember whom they’d lost to? “I’ll never forget, because it was my older brother and Chris Brody who beat us . . . in straight sets. Paul wasn’t used to losing. My brother reminds me of it every now and then.”

Kresberg went on to coach Columbia’s women’s tennis team for 13 years. Two of his classmates, Sue De Lara, at Sportime in Amagansett, and Holly Li, at the Ross School, are active in the tennis world here.

“I decided to do this for three reasons,” he said in reply to a question. “Number one, I have roots here; I have great memories from when I spent summers in Bridgehampton. Number two, I thought it was time in my career to own and run my own concession, and it’s a good excuse to get out of Manhattan with my wife [Dana] and 8-month-old daughter [Riley]. We’ve rented a house in Sagaponack.”

It would be “a professional operation,” Kresberg said in answer to another question. He and his assistants, Brandon Blankenbaker, the country’s top-ranked doubles player in men’s 35s, who teaches on Kiawah Island in South Carolina in the winter, and Vishu Prasad, the number-one singles player on Jackson State University’s Division-1 team in Mississippi, will be at the park’s courts day in and day out, giving lessons, clinics, and overseeing events. 

Although the courts — there are eight Har-Tru ones and two hard-surface — are in Sag Harbor, one needn’t be a Sag Harbor resident to play on them, as this writer used to think. 

“They’re open to anyone,” Kresberg said, “though Sag Harbor residents will have some discounted camp, clinic, and court time rates . . . lessons and clinics will be discounted for members.”

The details concerning memberships, fees, lessons, clinics, events, and a junior tennis camp are on the sagharbortennis.org website.

Weather permitting, the Mashashi-muet courts and the aforementioned pros will be up and running on May 1. A member welcome round robin, for which there will be no charge, is scheduled for May 26.

“As I said, we’d like to have a club-like feel within a park setting,” said the new lessee, who added, “I’ll meet the members’ needs [from May through October] to the best of my ability. I’m very excited about this — it’s a good challenge for me. I’ll be very accessible.”

As for tennis’s popularity, it, like golf in the past 15 or so years, has experienced cyclic ups and downs, he said, “though in the past three or four years there’s been a resurgence . . . when it comes to all ages.” 

“It’s one of the few sports you can play into your 90s. And you can always improve. There’s no one way to hit a ball, there are many ways to learn, many ways to teach. Plus, it’s a great social sport. I want to create a culture of inclusiveness, community, and warmth here. Although some will want to get their tennis out of the way and move on to other activities, I want people to feel that they can stick around and enjoy the park, the beautiful landscape, and each other’s company.”