BLANDO TWINS SHOW THE ADVANTAGES OF PLAYINGCOLLEGE TENNIS | USTA SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
TENNIS WITH FAMILY
TENNIS WITH FAMILY
MAY 24, 2023 | LEXIE WANNINGER
BLANDO TWINS SHOW THE ADVANTAGES OF PLAYING TENNIS WITH FAMILYUSTA SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
MAY 24, 2023
SHARE THIS STORY
Siblings who play sports together, particularly tennis doubles, often share a unique bond that goes beyond their shared DNA. This connection is evident in the dynamics, communication, and intensity of playing together. Amidst the competitive atmosphere, siblings provide motivation during tough times, and twins have an even deeper connection, possessing an unspoken understanding of each other’s movements and abilities. Playing sports together provides an opportunity for siblings to bond and enjoy quality time together, and teaches valuable life skills like teamwork and sportsmanship.
Southern California has seen the rise of some of the most impressive family pairs in tennis, from the formidable Venus and Serena Williams, who were a powerhouse duo that clinched Olympic gold, to the legendary Bob and Mike Bryan, who dominated local junior tournaments, amassed 16 Grand Slam doubles titles together, and spent more weeks atop the rankings than any team in history. The Bryan Bros’ success led to a belief that their identical twin status aided their understanding of each other’s tendencies.
One such pair is fraternal twins Mike and Jay Blando of Rancho Bernardo, who have made their own mark in tennis. They have been playing tennis since they were young boys and continue to do so through their college years, with a unique connection evident when they play doubles. They have built a reputation as a formidable team due to their unbreakable bond on and off the court, giving them an edge over their competitors. While they draw inspiration from legends like the Bryan Bros, over the years, they have distanced themselves from the duo and focused on creating their own path and reality alongside each other.
The brothers developed a passion for tennis from a young age and have created many fond memories on the court. Their father, Ernie Blando, who teaches tennis, played a significant role in their love for the game. As toddlers, Ernie would feed them tennis balls, and they would swing their racquets around joyfully. Although Ernie tried to teach them the basics of tennis, Jay jokingly said he was more interested in running around and trying to hit his dad in the face with the ball.
Although the brothers’ first tournament was a USTA 8-and-Under tournament, their earliest memories of playing competitively together were a bit later. Mike’s earliest recollection is with his Junior Team Tennis (JTT) team traveling around San Diego, where he and Jay are from, and then to Sectionals in Palm Springs. He recalls his earliest memory of the two playing together when they were twelve years old playing at the 14U JTT Sectionals final, “Jay and I walked on court, and our opponents and our parents were laughing at how small we seemed compared to our towering competitors. An hour later, we walked off that same court with big smiles on our faces and a victory, and saw not so much the same from the ones who laughed at us.”
In true sibling fashion, Jay, the more zealous sibling, has an earlier recollection when the two played a division up in a doubles tournament at the age of 9, competing against older opponents in the 12-and-under division. “All I can recall is that we had a tough first round and my brother and I were arguing with each other. I think we felt quite embarrassed playing against older, better players, and it didn’t help that we were wearing identical uniforms. We lost 6-1 6-0 I believe and the drive back home was extremely quiet.”
As they’ve grown older, Mike and Jay’s bond has continually become stronger. They traveled constantly throughout Southern California playing junior tournaments, and started taking tennis seriously in high school when they started to see a future with it in college. After over a decade of playing the sport they love together, they have built a reputation as a formidable team.
Additionally, twins playing tennis doubles together have a shared experience that gives them an edge over their competitors. Mike and Jay have been each other’s doubles partner for almost their whole lives, and have built up an innate understanding of each other’s movements on the court. Whether one needs to cross over or shift to a certain side of the court, the other instinctively knows where to go. This allows them to make split-second decisions without verbal communication, ensuring they cover all areas without hesitation. The shared experience also allows for nuanced plays that only they can execute, giving them a further advantage over their opponents. What makes Mike and Jay so great, they say, is their ability to work together and interchange their on-court roles on any given day.
Over time, the two have gained an understanding of what they are better at and what they need to work on more. Their personalities have played a crucial role in their playing styles and strategies, allowing them to work together seamlessly. Jay is more of a fiery, competitive person on and off the court, whereas Mike is typically very relaxed. This translates over to their tennis with Jay being the aggressor and Mike being more of the defender and mediator when it comes to their doubles tandem. “I like to take charge more because I believe that I am just a tad more competitive and driven at being the best when it comes to competing in this sport,” Jay explained. Although they aren’t perfect, the chemistry they share as twins is unparalleled, and it gives an advantage on the court that is hard to match. One thing they have taken away from the Bryan Bros is their ability to get to the net quickly, which they have incorporated into their own game, making their volleys their strongest suit and creating the ideal doubles team for each other.
Jay and Mike both agreed that playing together is their advantage. “There are certain things that I can only do with my brother that would be hard to replicate with a new partner or teammate,” Jay said.
Mike continued, “We have seen firsthand that for other sibling pairs out there, it does not work the same. It’s actually great to play against another pair of brothers or even twins because once we see them snap at each other, we know we have them.”
Playing tennis has taught Mike and Jay valuable lessons, including the importance of keeping an open mind and constantly learning. Through playing doubles together, they have learned the value of perspective, patience, and effective communication. By working as a team, they have also learned to problem-solve and push through challenges, strengthening their bond both on and off the court. This experience has helped them become better doubles partners and has taught them to be more understanding and empathetic with each other.
“Playing with my brother has its challenges, particularly when we are in really important, tight matches, it’s really easy for us to snap at each other on the court,” Mike confessed. “The biggest struggle is the fact that we are constantly around each other in some way 24/7,” added Jay.
Jay continued: “When we were younger, I was very competitive with my brother. I would try and one-up him in any way possible but as we got older, I realized that this was only hurting the relationship that we shared with each other. Now, I try to uplift him and push him to become the best version of himself, alongside me of course. We both have our own strengths and weaknesses individually, but I believe we perform the best on the tennis courts when we push our egos aside and play for each other, not for ourselves.”
Mike agreed, continuing: “I’ve come to realize after so many years of playing matches together, we have to remind ourselves to approach the game as if we were playing with our friends. Most doubles pairs aren’t siblings and I believe that is the greatest advantage pairs can have on us because they are playing with their selected friend for that weekend.”
In 2019, Jay shared his goals of staying together with his brother, Mike, and playing college tennis before potentially moving on to the ATP Challengers. Fast forward to today, and they have achieved the first half of their aspirations by playing college tennis together at the University of Utah. Recently, their team won a Pac-12 Regular Season title, which was a significant achievement for them, which Mike described as, “a feeling that you don’t get often. You take a step back and look back at everything every one of your teammates has done to reach this point for the university we represent.”
Looking ahead, the two brothers are reflecting on their journey so far and planning to play in the SoCal Pro Series this summer along with other high-level tournaments to prepare for their final year of college tennis. In particular, they are determined to showcase their skills as a doubles pair, which they believe have been under-appreciated for too long. Their goal is to make the starting lineup for their program and prove their ability to excel under pressure. Despite their uncertain plans after college, they remain committed to supporting each other no matter what path they choose. Ultimately, they hope to take their tennis careers to the professional level in doubles, building on the hard work and dedication they have invested in the sport over the years.