Match Point

Christian Straka talks tennis

Go-to tennis coach Christian Straka is the pro at Toluca Lake Tennis & Fitness Club in Los Angeles, nestling between Universal Studios and Warner Brothers. He keeps the ball low and the bar high training actors and studio heads, but just as he never drops the ball he also never drops a name. Humble and focused, his passion rings true: the name of the game is, quite simply, the game itself.
Christian StrakaWhat makes a good coach? 
A good coach can customize the lesson to suit your needs; they’ll be able to show you how sport is just a metaphor for life, and they’ll also help you get into a state of flow more easily than on your own.

When did you start playing tennis, and how did you get from professional to coaching? 
I started at the age of four, but had to stop playing the tour due to an injury at 21, which forced me to decide on an alternative career. Since tennis is my passion, I just continued doing what I love, as a coach. 

What fires your passion for tennis? 
I started very young and always loved it. I invested a lot of time and sweat, and it never seemed to be an effort. Only when I got older did I realize that the reason is that tennis brings me into the present moment more then any other activity I’ve ever done. 

Do you coach actors for movies? Was there ever someone who didn’t have a clue about tennis? How long does it take to be able to play? 
Yes I have, but my student wasn’t a beginner. Someone starting from scratch would have to invest many hours to get to a level where they can comfortably keep the ball in play.

You teach a lot of celebrities—can you name a few? 
To me, all my students are celebrities. 

What’s your view on fashion in tennis? 
There’s big Eighties revival right now. I appreciate good gear that supports the sport and is functional, and if it looks good then you’ve got it all. 

Talking fashion, what are your favorite brands? 
Nike, Iro, Rag & Bone, Alternative, Tom Ford, plus others. 

You recently switched to a vegan diet—why? 
I switched two years ago because I had heard so much from various people about what is healthy and what isn’t, and everyone had a different opinion. I started researching it, and when I read the book The China Study, I simply didn’t have a choice. I don’t eat animal protein, sugar or gluten, so my diet is plant-based and organic. 

Christian StrakaWhat’s your take on the whole protein discussion? Do vegans need supplements? 
Proteins are an important aspect of everyone’s diet; however, the amount of protein consumption in the Western world is unnecessary. A balanced diet makes supplements unnecessary. 

How many hours do you work out, yourself? 
Three to five hours a week if my schedule allows it. 

What other sports go well with tennis to achieve some balance? 
General fitness activities, yoga and swimming. Young aspiring players would also need to include running, soccer, basketball and boxing, among possible others.