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Bellevue twin brothers netting huge results as USTA juniors | Community sports feature
Ming Yu and his wife Helen remember when they took their twin boys, Thomas and James, to Robinswood Tennis Center in Bellevue for the first time.
Even though the boys weren't quite four-years-old, the youngest age Robinswood accepts for its Little Lobbers program, the parents knew they had to do whatever it took.
"They were three and a half," Ming said. "We kind of snuck in."
Eight years and nearly a dozen USTA junior championships later, including this year's Winter 12 and Under Championships, that choice continues to pay off.
"It is nice they can play and learn together," Helen said. "We want them to learn problem-solving and become mentally tough."
The boys have begun to build those traits on the court while also building their profile as some of the area's top players, garnering a spot in the region's singles and doubles rankings and capturing tournament titles together and on their own.
Their coach Dan Willman at Northwest High Performance Tennis in Kirkland said the two each have unique traits they bring to the court, and combine to form a formidable doubles pair by playing with an innate sense formed only through biology.
"They've played together so long and obviously live together, so they know each other's games and emotions really well," Willman said. "They are able to read where they are on the court and you can't put a price on that."
Willman would know, having played in his native New Zealand as a junior and eventually reaching the Davis Cup, along with coaching international junior teams.
Thomas exudes confidence, with a mental toughness that translates to consistency, while James is the bigger hitter and plays a more aggressive style.
Both are fervent competitors, according to Willman, and have dedicated themselves to the court time necessary to fine-tune their games.
"What I look for is that dedication and those character traits," he said, adding the structure of support provided by Ming and Helen is also a key. "They work hard, day in, day out."
The duo said they train six days per week, when they're not traveling for tournaments, as they are this weekend in Oregon.
While the trophies and gold balls awarded by the USTA are welcome accolades, both James and Thomas said the real goal is to use tennis as an avenue to a college education and career.
"College is so important," their father Ming said. "Not many people make it to the pros."
But with their collegiate and even prep careers still years in the future, the twins said enjoying their time together on the court, even if they are across the net from one another, is vitally important.
"In a big match, I'd rather play someone else," Thomas said. "If I beat him in singles, he's mad when we play doubles."
Their parents estimated the two have faced off on the singles court nearly a dozen times with a championship on the line, and said while it can be stressful watching their sons compete against one another in high-stakes situations, the grit they gain from those moments will pay dividends away from the court in their futures.
"It is a great experience, physically and mentally," Ming said. "When they play each other, it doesn't matter who wins, because it is in the house."
There are always a few subtle differences between identical twins, and the Yu Brothers are no exception.
Thomas: Left-handed, xix minutes older, more outgoing
James: Right-handed, taller and slightly bigger, quiet and shy, wears retainer
The Yu Brothers spend plenty of time practicing against, and with, one another. JOSH SUMAN, BELLEVUE RPEORTER
Thomas Yu and his twin brother James have formed a bond their coach Dan Willman said benefits them immensely in doubles play. JOSH SUMAN, BELLEVUE REPORTER