Stephanie Racanelli’s shrug after the match told the story.
As the mother of both players in the Suffolk Division II boys tennis singles championship, she was in a difficult position. After the match, she’d have to console one son while congratulating another. It led to a lot of nervous energy for the family as Stephanie gave encouragement to each son when they did well, and criticism with each mistake.
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“What more could you ask for than to watch your kids on the same court?” Stephanie said.
Marty Racanelli defeated his twin brother, Richie, 7-5, 6-2, in the singles championship Tuesday at East Islip Middle School. The West Islip sophomores have played about five official matches against each other along with hundreds more for fun growing up, but competing in a championship felt different.
“It was kind of difficult,” Marty said. “We always played when we were younger and stuff, so we just played.”
“I definitely thought it was kind of cool,” Richie said. “It was definitely competitive . . . I feel like it was a pretty good match.”
Marty entered the 32-person tournament consisting of the top players in Suffolk League III and IV as the No. 1 seed. Richie was the No. 3 seed, meaning they both needed four wins during the week to face each other in the final.
“It’s tough,” said Rich, the boys’ father. “You want them both to do well. You really hope it’s a close match.”
Marty was returning nearly all of Richie’s shots as Richie tried to keep his composure and forget it was his brother on the other side of the court.
“We definitely thought about it,” Richie said, “but once you’re on the court, you just think about each point.”
Although the two stayed away from each other the night before the championship, they are very close on and off the court. They started taking 15-minute tennis lessons at age 3 with the sessions increasing by 15 minutes every year. Stephanie remembers the two hitting their rubber duck with kitchen pots and pans like tennis rackets.
The two compete against each other in basketball, skiing and whatever they are doing in that moment, but that’s for fun. They don’t like playing each other in official games They were quiet after the match, admitting it was a little weird facing one another for a championship.
“I know how they are just at practice, they don’t like to play one another,” said West Islip coach George Botsch. “It’s tough to play your brother.”
But the two may need to get used to it during championship matches. Being in this position as sophomores means it could happen again, which wouldn’t surprise Botsch.
“It’s quite possible that it could be this matchup three years in a row,” he said. “If they keep at it, they are that good.”