It’s easy to tell which two are the tennis players destined to be athletes on the tennis courts at Out-of-Door Academy. The twins, Jake and Connor Krug, look like they could have been standout basketball players, or maybe baseball pitchers, or, if they filled out a little bit more, maybe even football players.
They’re both tall and starting to bulk up. Their father was a quarterback for Notre Dame in the 1990s. Their mother played tennis for the Fighting Irish, too, after a state-championship career at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School.
Their grandfather, though, is the one sitting courtside on this early-morning practice at Out-of-Door, his distinctive voice booming while he dons a pale blue ESPN golf shirt. No one is a bigger fan of the three Krugs, all of whom are regarded among the best in their respective age groups, than Dick Vitale, the famed ESPN college basketball broadcaster and the patriarch of the Krug family.
“When the tournaments are definitely together it’s definitely all of us traveling to a tournament,” Jake Krug said. “It’s definitely more fun having your family there, your cousins.”
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Vitale has lived in Manatee County for decades now, sending both of his daughters to Saint Stephen’s, where they became tennis standouts. Now Sherri Krug, formerly Sherri Vitale, has three tennis-playing children of her own.
Connor and Jake have been playing at Out-of-Door for a handful of years while forming one of the most ferocious 14-year-old doubles teams in the nation. Ava won’t even be able to play for ODA for another couple years. Instead, she settles for winning national trophies in 12s.
“They have all the traits,” said Lance Luciani, who coaches all three at Luciani Tennis Player Development in Sarasota. “They’re good competitors and very athletic, and they have the good genes.”
For Connor and Jake, it meant tennis was never the obvious choice. They’re both easily clear of 6 feet and were basketball and baseball players before they settled on tennis as a priority a couple years ago. Ava dabbled in soccer but started playing tennis around the same time the twins did, so she’s been on the court from a younger age.
The twins began playing tennis when they were young, just as a casual activity their mother was inevitably going to share with them. They first became successful, though, as baseball players helping the Lakewood Ranch Little League All-Stars come within one win of reaching the state tournament in 2015.
“Once I started a sport, I put so many hours in I didn’t want to give it up,” Connor Krug said. “Then I just fell in love with (tennis), so I just kept going with it.”
Their builds alone suggest athleticism. Their father, Tom Krug, is 6 feet, 5 inches, and the twins should approach that size as well. Their footwork is impressive and their days as pitchers has translated to strong serves.
“They could’ve played anything,” Luciani said.
Both twins are members of the Class of 2021 and considered among the best in their grade. Connor is a five-star prospect, according to TennisRecruiting.net, and is ranked by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) as the No. 9 player in his age group. Jake isn’t far behind, a four-star prospect and the USTA’s No. 28 player. They won the USTA hard-court national championship as a doubles team earlier this month.
They’re where they are despite starting at an older age than most of their peers. Paired with their decision not to be home schooled, the twins have had far less time on the court than some of their opponents. Keeping up means living a hectic schedule. They’ll usually go out to the courts at ODA at 7 a.m. to squeeze in about an hour of practice before they begin school at 8:30 a.m. After school, they’re back at it for a full session at Palm Aire Country Club.
Ava is instead the model for what happens when the family’s natural athleticism is blended with time spent on the court. She began playing more seriously at 9, which puts her on track with most of the competition at her age. She’s also No. 9 in the USTA standings and Babolat’s recruiting rankings peg her as the No. 1 player from Florida in the Class of 2024. She won a USTA doubles clay court championship earlier this summer.
“For her,” Jake Krug said, “it was just tennis.”
For all of them now, it’s enough that they are starting to make a name for themselves.