Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series of stories on the Senior Games.
Ray Ranallo never bought into the idea that age would erode his tennis skills. “As you get older, you don’t have to get worse at whatever you’re doing,” he said. “Because I’ve kept playing for all these years, I should be playing better, as long as my joints hold up.”
The folks who match wits with Ranallo in the Senior Tennis Players Club can vouch for that. On a recent morning at Bloomington’s Bryant Park, the 93-year-old from Minneapolis showed off a hard-to-handle serve with a wicked spin, as well as a wily drop shot. And after a couple of hours of mixed doubles, Ranallo didn’t linger; he had to get to a yoga class, another of the many activities that fill his days.
This week, Ranallo is participating in the National Senior Games for the fourth time, playing singles and doubles in the men’s 90-94 age category. Along with doubles partner Chuck Supplee of Bloomington — who at 96 is the oldest Minnesotan competing in the Senior Games — he hopes to add to the gold medals they won in 2009 and 2013.
“You’ve got to take care of yourself,” said Ranallo, a retired electrician. “You read books about places in Europe where people live such a long time, and it’s because they’re active.
“Some people think when you retire, you’re supposed to quit. They waited all their lives for this, and they want to just sit around. But they’re missing out on life. This is the time when you can really get out and enjoy yourself.”
Ranallo plays tennis two or three times a week year-round. A Marine Corps veteran who served in World War II, he took up the game after retiring in the mid-1980s and has played regularly since.
Through the Senior Tennis Players Club, a 1,100-member group based in the Twin Cities, Ranallo plays mixed doubles with a group that meets at courts around the metro area. He also shares his knowledge of the game; for the past 25 years, he has joined with other seniors to volunteer with youth programs at Minneapolis’ InnerCity Tennis. Three times a week, Ranallo supplements his tennis with yoga and other strength and flexibility workouts.
Cal Schadel, who plays with Ranallo, said all those years on the court have served his friend well. “He is shrewd,” said Schadel, 86. “That drop shot is tricky, and he doesn’t give you much to hit. He’s hanging in there real good for his age.”
Ranallo also values the social time that tennis provides — including senior club parties. While his schedule may sound exhausting, he said he has seen what happens to people who are idle in retirement.
“They only last a few years when they sit in front of the TV,” Ranallo said. “They don’t have to give up. They can keep going.
“Everyone you talk to, they can hardly believe I’m still going at my age. I can hardly believe it myself.”