On most high school tennis teams, the singles players draw the most attention.
Not so at Salem, where identical twins Caden and Conor Sweet have become the star attraction and for good reason — they are the Rocks’ very own version of the professional “Bryan Brothers” and a dynamite 2 doubles tandem.
For non-tennis fans, Bob and Mike Bryan swing with opposite hands. That’s exactly the case with the Sweets, with Caden a righty and Conor a lefty.
“Actually, they went to a Cincinnati tournament (Western & Southern Open) a couple weeks ago and they got their pictures taken with Mike Bryan,” veteran Salem coach Bill Nelson said. “I said, ‘Well, did you tell them that we refer to you as the Bryan Brothers?'”
Nelson said the 16-year-old twins did not mention that, but the Sweets are letting their play on the court do most of the talking for them.
“They don’t talk a lot to each other out on the court,” Nelson continued. “I don’t know if it’s just whatever (goes) on between twins, but they kind of know what to do on the court without verbally communicating.
“… They’re pretty much the same, they like hitting the ball hard, hitting it low, keeping it in play. They both attack the net, which is what you want your doubles players to do.”
Meanwhile, the Sweets, in their second season on the Salem varsity, are used to kiddingly being referred to by Nelson and teammates as the “Bryan Brothers.”
“Coach has called us that since freshman year (when they were on JV),” Caden said. “And every time the Bryan Brothers lose at a tournament he’ll be like ‘What did you guys do yesterday?’ Just joking and stuff.”
Actually, they were eighth graders at Central Middle School when they began to take the sport seriously. They played the sport during gym class and their dad, Leonard Sweet, bought them their first racquets.
“We started in eighth grade playing with our dad, it was just us two against him,” Conor said. “And then we didn’t make soccer so we went out for the tennis team. We ended up playing really well and that was kind of the start of everything.”
Just like em
They also watched the Bryan Brothers play a match on television, bumping up their interest.
“I think we saw them on TV and went ‘Oh wait, we’re right and left handed just like them, and we’re identical twins,'” Caden said.
According to Conor, “At the time we really didn’t follow tennis very much, we didn’t know about the Bryan Brothers. But as we played we started watching more, and we realized it’s really cool, not many people do this.”
Of course, what’s in a name if the game isn’t there?
For the Sweets, at least so far, the ingredients of sibling chemistry, determination and flat-out talent are yielding impressive results.
As of last week, the Sweets lone losses were against Northville and Novi, but the Mustangs and Wildcats perennially have premier programs that give plenty of teams fits, Nelson noted.
In addition, their unique logistics give opponents fits.
“We both have our forehands in the middle,” Conor explained. “And we go up to the net so it’s really nice because it’s a lot harder to hit it out wide.
“So then instead of people fighting over their backhands or whatever we both have our forehands, so it’s a lot better to put shots away.”
Plus, Caden said, he hits the ball harder and Conor is more consistent. “I think it’s a good combination.”
Another benefit is switching things up when it comes to who serves when and where.
“If the sun’s facing one way we can go ‘Okay, you serve on this time so you don’t have to look into the sun,'” Caden noted. “And righthanded-lefthanded usually is really good because it throws the opponent off.
“They’re used to righthanded-righthanded. And it’s better, a lefty slicer is really good. Not many people are used to that, so it’s really good.”
Getting to meet the Bryan Brothers at the Western & Southern Open was nifty, too.
“We went to Mike and Bob’s practice, they have all the practice courts open so we can go and watch,” Caden said. “There were so many people there, they were just signing autographs. Bob ran off to do something with his racquet.
“But Mike was there signing autographs, so our mom (Kathryn Hall) went up to him and said ‘Can we get a quick picture?’ We did, … it was really cool.”
Conor chimed in that they had gotten both Bryans’ autographs the previous day and “that we thought was really cool. And then the picture made it really awesome. Our goal was to get a picture with both, but one was good.”
Although it has been a lot of fun being part of a sibling duo, Caden and Conor acknowledged they might have to split up as seniors and join Salem’s singles lineup.
Doing so would be to maximize college opportunities. Most colleges recruit singles players.
Yet staying together and maybe even playing on a college team as “The Sweet Brothers” is something both smile a lot about.
“That would be really cool to play into college,” Conor said. “But we know you got to be really, really good to do that. So we’re not setting the expectations too high.
“Obviously, we really want to so we’re going to try our best and hopefully that can work out.”
Concurring was Caden, who added that smaller colleges might be more amenable to recruiting them as doubles players.
“If it’s a smaller-name one we might be able to get on that team,” Caden said. “But if it’s U-M or something they’ll probably have so many good players that we probably won’t make it.
“… But for now, we’re just going to focus on high school and doing our best. It would be awesome.”
Indeed, that would be pretty Sweet.
Who: The Sweet Brothers, Salem junior twins who comprise the 2 doubles team for the Rocks’ varsity boys tennis team. They are in their third year with the Salem program and their second as varsity regulars.
About: Both are 16 years old who live in Canton, whose parents are Leonard Sweet and Kathryn Hall, and carry 3.9 GPAs. They practice during the off-season at Huron Valley Tennis Club in Ann Arbor.
Oppo: Caden swings righthanded while Conor swings lefthanded, complementing each other on the court. They started playing in eighth grade with encouragement from their dad, and are in their third year playing the sport at Salem.
Future: They likely will be split up to start the 2016 season, to see if they can compete in the singles lineup. Most colleges recruit singles players. But they wouldn’t mind playing together at a college. Caden would like to pursue a degree in science while Conor is looking into engineering as a career.