WORTHINGTON -- The little doubles tennis league taking place at the Worthington middle school tennis courts three mornings a week is the best kind of mix. It’s competitive, yet it’s fun.
The players poke each other good-naturedly over their hits and misses. A well-aimed volley down the line is applauded -- but not too much. A clinker off the racket frame that lands five feet wide is dutifully noted. “Out!” comes the call, as if there were any doubt.
Randy and Lorna Kruger are always in the middle of the fun. They’re not only regulars at the adult league, but their essential good humor keeps everybody else smiling.
When the two of them compete on opposite sides of the net, they can often be heard needling each other. Randy will complain about Lorna’s “sneaky” dink shots just barely over the net. “Why don’t you do that when you’re on MY team?” he’ll say.
Then when they’re teammates, they’re like the proverbial couple that can’t see eye to eye. Rivals enjoy the marital dust-ups, which always seems timed for their pleasure. If you can get the Krugers to argue, it is said, it means you’re winning.
The Krugers, featured in this week’s edition of the Drill, have come a long way as tennis players. They cut their teeth on pickleball, then honed their tennis skills during trips south in Mesa, Ariz., each winter. They’re tough to beat.
Every player in the Worthington adult tennis league has a reputation. There’s Randy, the “headhunter” whose put-away shots aimed at the feet are not always perfectly aimed. There’s Lorna, whose slicing returns of serve can turn an opponent to jelly. There’s Barb, “the boss,” who has her own complicated way of orchestrating pairings when there are more than six competitors at a time. There’s Matt, “the professor” who’s got every shot in the book. There’s Bob, “the rocket,” who’s always a threat to ace you with his hard, flat serves. And of course, there’s more.
The Globe held court with Randy and Lorna, the king and queen of the hardcourt, recently. You can see the video online at www.dglobe.com. Here’s a sampling of the interview:
QUESTION: How did you become interested in tennis?
ANSWER: (Lorna) “We were playing pickleball with Barb Hogan in Worthington, and she encouraged us to go out and play tennis. But before we could come out and play, she thought we should try playing tennis in Arizona where our community down there does lessons. So we said, ‘OK, we’ll try it.’ And we came back to Worthington and started playing with her and the fun group.”
QUESTION: How have the two of you progressed in tennis since taking it up seriously?
ANSWER: (Randy) “When we first started playing tennis, probably the biggest challenge was the serve. To start with, we just wanted to get the ball into the square that it needed to go in. As we progressed, we’ve learned to put a little English on the ball, or spin. We’re still learning a lot of the groundstrokes, positioning and where to be, and how to get there.”
QUESTION: What kind of atmosphere prevails on the Worthington courts?
ANSWER: (Randy) “In our Worthington league we have quite a lot of fun amongst the players. We like to razz each other and give each other a bad time. I am kind of the central part of that league of people liking to pick on somebody. Not that I don’t bring it on myself. I like to hit hard at people, usually at their feet. Sometimes it goes elsewhere. My wife likes to hit at people, but mostly me.”