The Murphy brothers traded bats for rackets and a baseball diamond for a tennis court and haven’t looked back.
Valarie Murphy took her sons, Kieran and Luke, a senior and sophomore at James M. Bennett, to try out tennis when they were 10 and 8 years old.
The two boys enjoyed the sport — more than baseball for very different reasons — and stuck with it.
“We were a little hesitant to go into it at first because we thought we’d be playing baseball in high school,” Kieran said. “When we got into it, we immediately loved it. It’s kind of nice because we are both very self-driven, so it’s nice that it’s a self-paced sport.”
The Murphy siblings have been important parts of the Clippers’ tennis team since they joined, head coach Deb Downing said. Kieran has never lost a singles match in four years, covering more than 40 matches, while his younger brother made it to the district finals last season, followed by a trip to the state tournament in doubles.
But Kieran’s and Luke’s style of play couldn’t be more different and Downing won’t mess with that.
“Kieran is the more — he’ll be patient and wait the match out and wait for his opportunity,” Downing said. “Luke wants to get in there, and he wants to hit the big shot.”
Those styles were in plain view Wednesday against Worcester Prep as both Murphys won their matches.
Kieran’s slow and steady approach helped him keep the ball in play and wait for his opponent to make a mistake. After mishitting a few balls, Kieran took the safe approach and won his match handily in the end.
“I guess it’s pretty personality-driven,” Kieran said. “When I play, there’s not a huge sense of urgency, which is probably a bad thing. I try and take it one point at a time.”
But while Kieran’s safe approach worked for him, Luke is an aggressive, power player, wanting to win the point with every swing.
In Luke’s doubles match, the Mallards’ pair was up after the first few games. But after getting warmed up and a few words for their coach, Luke and Ryan Wootten made a comeback to take the match.
“I kind of need to feel the pressure to play well because if I don’t feel pressure I don’t hit the ball very well,” Luke said.
A good match for brothers
Even though the younger brother is the better tennis player because he spends more time on it, spending weekends on the court has made the brothers’ relationship closer.
At Bennett, they share the same friends, spend time at practice together or at band practice in the other times of the year.
“He was always Kieran’s younger brother, and I was always Luke’s older brother,” the senior said. “That was sort of cool from the in-school perspective and then with tennis, it’s just been awesome. I know there’s lots of people that have trouble finding people to hit with, even though Luke’s better than I am — I get something out of playing him and he gets something out of playing me.”
Their parents, Mike and Valarie, saw it as the perfect fit, watching them grow up.
“The nice thing about tennis, they can just go and spend an afternoon on the court,” Valarie said. “They just hit with each other, mess around and have fun, but also work on their games, too.”
Kieran, who will attend Princeton in the fall to study public policy, has always seen the cerebral, strategic side of the game, while Luke loves the active, individual aspect of the game.
“It’s fun because I don’t have to think about it,” Luke said. “I can just hit the ball, and it’s useful for getting anger out, if you’re mad.”
Kieran gave a good chuckle at that.
“He wants to hit the ball every time,” Mike said. “The one thing that drove him crazy about baseball, he had to wait. He was always the pitcher, the catcher or the center fielder. (Luke) wanted to be in every play.”
But with Kieran leaving for college, it’s all about to change for the Murphys.
“It’ll pretty weird because I’m used to him showing up late for me,” Luke said.
“That’s true,” Kieran laughed.
But Luke will also lose his hitting partner and said it will be kind of empty at the house without his closest sibling in age.
But they’ll still have the summer, when they can continue to head to the courts four to six times a week.
Don’t expect them to settle any brotherly arguments on the courts though. Luke can always hold over Kieran’s head that he’s better at tennis.
“Kind of sometimes, if he makes me mad,” Luke said. “I’ll put that in his face.”
Both laughed, but Kieran is too smart to lose a bet playing tennis.
“Maybe over something a little more fair than that,” Kieran said.
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