Like any brothers, Teddy and Phil Grenley have their combative moments. But on the tennis court, sibling reverence trumps rivalry every time.
After all, chasing history is serious business.
In their senior season at Charles Wright Academy, the Grenley twins are working toward a fourth consecutive state championship. It’s something no high-school boys doubles team has ever done in Washington Interscholastic Activities Association history.
And to pursue such an accomplishment with your best friend at your side makes it even sweeter.
“It’s such a blessing,” Phil said. “I’m so fortunate to have someone of my equal ability to dominate on the court.”
Dominate is exactly what the pair has done since their ninth-grade season in 2011, when they won their first state doubles crown. This year, they are off to a 5-0 start with a Tarriers squad looking to reclaim the 1A/2B/1B state team title after their run of four state titles in a row ended last season.
Charles Wright coach Reini Vanderheyd said he has seen the two-time team captains grow throughout their four seasons.
“Every time you win a title, it builds confidence tremendously,” Vanderheyd said, “and you see that in them every year — that they belong up there and can defend that title.”
During their time at Charles Wright, the Grenleys have lost just five matches.
“If we lost, maybe Phil and I were not on our game (that day),” Teddy said. “But no one in our high-school career has simply outplayed us.”
Vanderheyd said the Grenleys, who were 11 when they began playing tennis, have an advantage similar to professional duos such as Venus and Serena Williams.
“When you’re growing up with someone that good who’s progressing with you, you’re always playing at that top level,” he said.
Tennis is also in their blood. Their father, Robert, played at Charles Wright, and was part of the school’s second tennis title. He teamed with Tom Vozenilek to win the 3A doubles title over Washington’s Jim Wusterbarth and Wes Eklund (6-2, 2-6, 6-1) in 1974.
“It was a legend we would talk about going into ninth grade since our dad won state and our coaches were telling us we could do it,” said Teddy, who added that it would “mean the world” to he and Phil to leave their own mark on the program.
Both brothers agree on each other’s biggest strength: Phil has the booming serve, and Teddy has the long wingspan to keep volleys alive.
“It’s awesome because he totally knows where I’m going to be on the court,” Teddy said. “We can read each other’s minds.”
Phil said their synergy makes them a formidable force on the court.
“We’ve been called intimidating,” he said. “And it’s just incredible.”
There are a few reasons why opponents may feel that way: their record, their aggressive pursuit of the net, the way they push players back.
“But there’s always luck that’s involved, too,” Phil said. “It’s not just skill.”
At 6-foot-1, Teddy is 3 inches taller than Phil — and five minutes older.
“But he’s not going to mention that too many times,” Phil joked. “Even though he’s a little taller, I’m a little more beefy.”
The twins share a goal of attending Duke University — their father’s alma mater — but both said their main goal is to find a school with strong academics and, hopefully, the opportunity to play tennis. Phil has an interest in medicine, while Teddy plans to study business or entrepreneurship.
But first comes the pursuit of that elusive fourth state title.
“It would be remarkable,” Phil said. “And I think we can do it this year.”