East Xtra: Tennis siblings double their fun

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Kiski Area senior Thad Paunovich qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA doubles tournament in 2012 with teammate Charles Law.

Kiski junior Tyler Paunovich advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA singles tournament this season.

But this week was special, because the brothers got to play in the district tournament together for the first time.

The Paunovich brothers, who reside in Bell Township, teamed up to finish third in the Class AAA Section 1 doubles tournament last week and qualify for Monday's WPIAL doubles tournament.

They lost, 10-1, in the first round to the Fox Chapel tandem of Sid Rajupet and Ben Short.

That Foxes team advanced to the championship match Tuesday where they defeated/lost to Shady Side Academy's Alok Nimgaonkar and Chris Grubbs.

"I've looked forward to playing with him for a long time," Thad Paunovich said. "It's a great way to end my senior year by playing with him at WPIALs."

The two brothers have a close relationship. Whether it's playing volleyball, going on a bike ride, playing golf with their grandfather or shooting hoops at the YMCA, the two brothers are often together.

That includes playing tennis. This offseason, Tyler and Thad, along with Law and Kiski coach Ralph Antenucci, went to The Club Sport and Health in Monroeville to hit the ball around once a week.

The quartet would play doubles, switching teams often. That gave the Paunovich brothers a lot of experience playing together.

"It was definitely a great experience," Thad Paunovich said. "It really helped us know each other's strengths and weaknesses."

The biggest strength the Paunovich's possess may be their height. Both players are 6 feet 2, which gives them a great reach at the net and also helps give them good angles on their serves.

It also may give them a psychological advantage.

"We're taller than most of the other players we face," Tyler Paunovich said. "So looking across the net at us, that's probably pretty intimidating."

The rest of their game has progressed throughout their high school careers. While Tyler and Thad have both played tennis since they were young, it was mostly with their parents.

Neither took lessons and neither started playing competitively until they reached high school.

But through hard work, Tyler has elevated himself to the team's No. 1 singles player, while Thad is No. 3.

"They've really put in the time with their games," Antenucci said. "As they have played more and more, their all-around game has gotten better and better.

"They didn't have an extensive background in tennis, but being brothers, they can practice against one another. They can push one another and work together."

Which is exactly what they did to reach the district tournament.



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