Opponents of Ellie and Chloe Kuckelman aren’t seeing double. They’re just facing two of the area’s best young tennis players who happen to be twins.
The identical duo is participating in the USTA Missouri Valley Sweet 16 at the Plaza Tennis Center this week. The two 14-year-olds swiftly dispatched their first two doubles opponents Tuesday in twin 8-2 victories. (The junior competitors play one eight-game pro set during this tournament to advance to the doubles finals.)
Ellie and Chloe, the tournament’s top-ranked doubles pair, are dominant in part because of their effective communication on the court — communication that stems from their strong relationship off the court.
“Almost twin telepathy,” Chloe calls it.
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“It’s almost like you know what they’re thinking,” she said of her sister.
Whether the bond helps when they’re competing against each other in singles is another story.
The Kuckelmans, freshmen-to-be at Blue Valley North this fall, come into the tournament ranked No. 1 and No. 2 individually. Ellie earned the top seed over Chloe, although Chloe defeated her sister last weekend at a tournament in St. Louis.
“Hopefully in this tournament I’ll have another chance at her,” Ellie said with a grin.
The sisters try to play nice on the court, but that doesn’t always happen.
“We sometimes have a habit of fighting a lot,” Chloe said. “We’re really competitive against each other. We fight hard.”
Once they’re done playing each other, the task awaiting their mom, Mickey, will be the same no matter who prevails: She’ll have to congratulate a winner and console a loser.
“We don’t really care who wins,” Mickey said. “It’s harder for them because they have to go against each other.”
Chole says she likes playing her sister.
“When I play other girls,” Chloe said, “I feel the pressure. I just like playing her because we’re best friends.”
Whether at school or home, both girls say they’re always trying to one-up the other. But when they’re on the same side of the net, having a sisterly bond is an asset.
“We have to work hard to make each other better,” Ellie said. “A lot of times during doubles matches I depend on her to pick me up if I’m getting frustrated.”
Chloe agreed that their competitive nature gives them an advantage.
“In a way it really helps us because our competitiveness kind of merges and we fight hard,” she said. “A lot of times we do well because of that.”
The Missouri Valley Sweet 16 continues daily through the finals on Sunday.