THIS IS... IRVINE'S CHAMPION & WINNER OKEYJUNIOR TENNIS | USTA SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
DECEMBER 13, 2022 | DARRYL NASH
THIS IS... IRVINE'S CHAMPION & WINNER OKEYUSTA SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
DECEMBER 13, 2022
SHARE THIS STORY
They are as known for their first names as they are for their tennis, but that tide is beginning to shift as Champion and Winner Okey further establish themselves at the height of their junior tennis careers. While the 15-year-old twins from Irvine are on the verge of major career decisions that determine their immediate futures in the game, it is all too clear that they remain on course for great things, with just a little bit of sibling rivalry to spice things up a bit.
Despite the default expectation that they’d naturally make a dynamic doubles team, and the optics that reflect the legendary Southern Californian Bryan brothers or Williams sisters, the Okey twins unquestionably favor singles competition over tandem play.
“It’s the individual part of the sport,” Winner says of what attracts him most to the competition. “I want (the outcome) to be up to me.”
Still, the twins realize the value in joining forces on the other side of the net. “We know we can do well in doubles. We both have big serves,” Champion adds, noting that their physical games are well suited for the power of doubles play.
Still, they chide each other with ease. “I get mad at him because he misses dumb shots,” Winner laughs.
Equally intriguing is the concept of facing off in a singles draw, something that had happened only four times in their young careers, but never in a major tournament. Of those four meetings, the brother have split at two-apiece.
Champion – the elder brother by about 60 seconds – and Winner took to tennis at a young age, after an early introduction to racquet spots by their father, an accomplished table tennis player. But the larger racquet and wider court appealed to the boys, and their ascent has been steady. Recently, the Okeys shifted to home schooling, with the desire to focus more on developing their tennis game along with their studies.
“This year, we decided to home school for more training,” said Winner, who was nursing a midsummer injury ahead of the fall schedule. “So hopefully we’ll take it more seriously, play some of the bigger tournaments and Nationals.”
After that, the brothers will weigh options about their future in the game, with both pro tennis and the collegiate experience on their radar. “We’d like to (go pro), but we’re also thinking about college,” Champion added. “I think when we get closer to that age, we’ll see how good we are and decide then.”
Still the hard-hitting question remains – which is better, a champion or a winner?
“We had this discussion a few weeks ago,” Winner recalled. “You know when they say, ‘winner takes all’? Well, I guess I take all!”
His brother was quick to counter. “You can be a winner but not a champion,” Champion said. “If you’re a champion, you have to be a winner.”
Yes, this a friendly sibling rivalry that will be fun to watch in the years to come.