Former Illinois tennis players reunite

Past and present Illinois tennis players high-five after doubles match at the Alumni Reunion, Friday at Atkins Tennis Center. Erica Magda

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Past and present Illinois tennis players high-five after doubles match at the Alumni Reunion, Friday at Atkins Tennis Center. Erica Magda

By Bret Greenberg

Nobody told 1966 Illinois alumna Lois Diller there was an age limit for the 2008 Alumni Weekend round-robin tennis tournament. So at 63 years young, the Chicago native laced up one more time Friday at the Atkins Tennis Center for the Alumni Reunion Weekend.

“I never got tired of tennis,” Diller said. “They never burned us out like they do these days. I still have lots of friends that play with me.”

Geared up in an orange top and a blue tennis skirt down to her knees, Diller started the night hitting with sophomore Annie McCarthy on the outdoor courts.

“She made me run a lot, and now I’m tired,” McCarthy said with a smile. “She has a shorter compact stoke and a crazy slice.”

Diller keeps herself busy working five days a week at McFetridge Sports Center in Chicago, teaching tennis lessons for up to six hours a day.

“I teach anyone from 4-year-olds to seniors,” Diller said. “The only real break I get from tennis is in August when there aren’t any lessons.”

Outside of teaching lessons, Diller participates in a doubles league on weekends and a Chicago summer league during her time off.

When round two of the event rolled around, tournament coordinator and former men’s player Brandon Davis asked Diller if she was open to playing in a six-game doubles match.

With a nod, she was paired with junior Megan Fudge and was set to play against McCarthy and 2007 alumna Emily Wang.

It was an up and down match, with both Diller and Fudge spending time up at the net, but in the end, Wang and McCarthy were too much for them, winning 4-2.

“She is still so fit,” Fudge said. “I honestly think we lost because of me.”

After her match, Diller noted some of the evolving nuances of the game since she left it officially 42 years ago.

“People hit the ball so much harder these days,” Diller said. “Luckily the new rackets can help the elderly keep up. I also enjoy learning the new shots that are out there. I need to keep up with my students who are in their twenties.”

When asked about her fondest memory at Illinois, Diller brought up her trip to Nationals.

“At that point there were only two of us on the team and we were only playing a couple matches a season,” Diller said. “Nationals were held in North Carolina and we had to take regular buses with multiple transfers. It was a great feeling when we actually had our luggage once we arrived.”

Diller said that although she didn’t win a match at Nationals, it was the experience of traveling and meeting all the other girls that made it her best memory.

Other alumni in attendance included 2006 graduates Brianna Knue and Cynthia Goulet, as well as several members of the Fighting Illini men’s tennis team.