EDMONDS — When tennis standouts Russell and Steven Anderson face each other, it’s usually just for training and some light brotherly bragging rights.
But occasionally, there’s something more at stake.
Like the time five years ago, when their father had an extra ticket to a charity match between pro tennis stars Roger Federer and John Isner at Seattle’s KeyArena.
Russell and Steven both wanted to go. So naturally, they settled it on the court.
“It was a battle,” Steven said. “It went on for a couple hours, at least. I got it in the end. … We both wanted it so bad.”
The Anderson brothers have grown up together on the tennis court, where they’ve been constant companions as hitting partners, teammates and some of each other’s biggest fans.
Along the way, they’ve starred for Edmonds-Woodway High School as two of the area’s top prep boys tennis players.
Russell, a senior, claimed last year’s Wesco 3A South singles tournament title and went on to reach the Class 3A state quarterfinals. This fall, he posted a 13-1 regular-season record as the Warriors’ No. 1 singles player, with all 13 victories coming in straight sets.
Steven, a sophomore, captured last year’s 3A District 1 singles tournament crown and then battled through the 3A state consolation bracket for a fifth-place state medal. He cruised to a perfect 12-0 mark at the No. 2 singles spot this season, winning all 12 matches in straight sets.
“I’ve been around for a long time,” said Edmonds-Woodway coach Dan Crist, who’s in his 23rd year at the helm. “I’ve seen some really, really good players. And they are very good players. They’re very strong.”
As an elite one-two punch, the Anderson brothers led the Warriors to a perfect 14-0 record in dual meets this fall.
And with the Wesco 3A South Tournament beginning Tuesday, they’re both looking to embark on another run to the 3A state tournament — which takes place next May.
“It’s certainly fun to watch them,” Crist said. “They hit good shots and they get a lot of balls back that other people are just gonna watch.”
For the Anderson brothers, tennis runs deep in their family.
Their father, Brian, played at Western Washington University and later became a tennis professional at Tennis Center Sand Point in Seattle. Their mother, Stella, grew up playing the sport in the southern African nation of Zambia.
And it was tennis that brought them together.
In the mid-1990s, Brian served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zimbabwe, which shares a border with Zambia. During his time in Zimbabwe, Brian met Stella at a tennis tournament.
They later got married and raised their two boys, who took an interest in the sport from a young age.
“Basically from the day we were born, we were tennis players,” Russell said with a laugh.
As they got older, the Anderson brothers began training with coaches and playing in tournaments around the area.
Separated by just two years, they’ve always had someone to hit with.
“It makes it so much easier,” Russell said. “Instead of (trying to) find somebody, you can just say, ‘Hey, you wanna go hit?’ And we’re about the same level too, so it always just worked out.”
Over the years, the Anderson brothers have occasionally squared off against each other in non-high school tournaments. Their lone high school encounter came in last year’s Wesco 3A South championship match, which Russell won.
Prior to Monday night’s Wesco 3A South tournament draw, it hadn’t been announced whether the Andersons will play singles or doubles this postseason. Last week, Crist said both options were a possibility. The brothers exclusively played singles during the regular season, but they play both singles and doubles during practices.
If they go the singles route again, another matchup between them could very well be on the horizon — either at this week’s league tournament or next week’s district tournament.
“The toughest part is having to see him as an opponent, rather than my younger brother,” Russell said. “… He’s in every way my equal. So I’ve really gotta focus up and see him as a rival (and) somebody that I have to give my all to play against.”
Aside from those rare instances when they’re pitted as opponents, the Anderson brothers are quick to support and cheer each other on.
That’s especially been the case at non-high school tournaments. When a match goes to a third set, players are allowed to have one person coach them for a few minutes during the break.
“Almost all the time, either he comes out for me or I come out for him,” Russell said. “We give each other a little pep talk (and share) a couple things we noticed.
“We are each other’s biggest fans,” he added. “There’s not a single match where one or the other isn’t watching (and) cheering. It’s built a really nice relationship between the two of us.”
Of course, there are still some lighthearted sibling squabbles from time to time.
“There’s been an ongoing argument that started a year ago about who ate who’s cookie,” Crist said with a laugh. “It’s still going on. I still hear about it.
“But they get along well,” he added. “They have a great relationship. I think there was some concern about the competitiveness of them both playing singles. And it’s just not an issue, because they’re both good kids. … They’re great brothers.”
The biggest on-court difference between them is their handedness — Russell is left-handed and Steven is a righty. But they also have slightly different playing styles.
“Russell is more of a backcourt player — good strokes, moves people around,” Crist said. “Steven comes to the net a little more, will step in on weak balls, take advantage of weak shots. So they do play a different type of game.
“But they’re both very consistent players. They put a lot of balls back (and) they don’t make a whole ton of mistakes.”
Russell’s only loss this season was a competitive three-set defeat to unbeaten Snohomish junior standout Cade Strickland, who cruised to victory in each of his other 13 matches.
“It was a three-setter (that) could’ve gone either way,” Crist said.
At the No. 2 singles spot, Steven has faced a slightly less challenging slate. But as Crist emphasized, Steven certainly isn’t a typical No. 2 player.
“Steven’s probably a number one on any other team in the league,” Crist said.
With the Anderson brothers leading the way, the Warriors look to build on their undefeated regular season with a strong postseason showing.
“Our goal is to qualify as many people as possible to go on to the next level,” Crist said. “So we’ll put together a lineup that will hopefully allow us to do that.
“It’s really easy to coach when you have good kids,” he added. “And we have good kids up and down the lineup. … That makes my job easy.”