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Why Brotherly Face-Offs Aren’t a Pleasant Thing in Tennis

Francisco Cerundolo National Bank Open Rogers Cup

There are many benefits of having a sibling on the professional circuit, starting from always having someone to practice and share your tennis journey with. Often you can even join forces in doubles or represent your country in team-based competitions. But there’s also that one downside of what happens when you actually have to play against each other.

Dali vs Ulises Blanch

In the opening round of a 15K ITF in Monastir this week, 20-year-old Dali Blanch defeated 25-year-old Ulises Blanch 6-1 7-5. For both brothers, this was their first match of the 2024 season. Last year, they also squared off in the second round of the Poznan Challenger, where Ulises stated after the win: “It was horrible. (…) I thought maybe playing him one day could be enjoyable, but honestly, it was the worst match of my life. I’m five years older than him, I almost feel like a second father to him. It was brutal”

That feeling was apparent to on-site spectators as well as the two were having a hard time focusing on the court and actually finding the fire to compete against each other. The Blanches are one of the biggest professional tennis families, with Ulises, Dali, Darwin, and Krystal all on the tour in some capacity. “We owe it all to my dad, he’s a very special person. Beyond the tennis life and all that, we’re very united, very together. Playing the same sport, being in the same lifestyle helps all of us at the same time. That’s why today was so brutal” added Ulises Blanch after his win in Poznan.

It’s a bit of a conundrum as the brothers want to keep playing in the same events to have each other’s backs in this tough journey of a tennis pro, but at the same time, that increases the possibility for more face-offs in the future. Darwin is considered the most talented of the Blanch family, having made the Roland Garros boys’ singles semifinals at just 15 years of age last year. Soon enough, he will be competing a lot more in the pros and likely often in the same events as his older siblings, so we might get to see more combinations of the Blanch family battling one another.

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How did the Cerundolos and the Zverevs handle it?

But of course, not everyone will have the same approach. When Alexander Zverev and Mischa Zverev played at Washington in 2018, the younger brother said before the match “It’s going to be very, very interesting for our family. It’s a special day because not a lot of families can say they’ve had two brothers play against each other on such a high level.” Both siblings were treating this as more of a special occasion than an unfortunate obligation, Mischa said he was holding back tears thinking about the early days and how they always imagined themselves in a Wimbledon final against one another.

On the other side of this argument was the face-off between Francisco and Juan Manuel Cerundolo at the Campinas Challenger in 2021. Just like between the Blanches, it was a weird feeling with both players not celebrating the points they won and low quality due to the lack of motivation and drive. It’s never easy to play someone you’ve trained with for years in a competitive setting; it must be even tougher when it’s your brother.

Main Photo Credit: David Kirouac – USA TODAY Sports


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