Adriana Serra simply could not lose. As she watched the Kansas Class 6A boys tennis final unfold Saturday afternoon, Serra knew that one of her twin sons from Blue Valley West would come away the state's singles champion.
Both junior brothers not only outperformed their individual seeds when second-seeded Bruno Serra defeated third-seeded Rafa Serra 6-3, 6-3 at the Topeka-Kossover Tennis Center, but they also helped BV West win the 6A team title for the second straight season.
From the grandstand, mom took pictures with her phone and kept in contact with other family members who couldn't be there to see Bruno beat Rafa for the third time this season in as many meetings.
"It's not hard because for me, because it doesn't matter if Bruno won or Rafa won," Adriana Serra said. "For me, it's good that both got as far as they did."
She said she's even prouder of her boys for getting used to living in the United States the past two years after growing up in Brazil, where the first language is Portuguese. Their father, an engineer, moved the family here after his firm transferred him.
"This is a good experience for my family, especially for my sons," Adriana Serra said. "The tennis program at the high school is really good, they're playing good. I like it here very much, it's a good country. We are learning a new culture and language, and my sons speak English fluently. My husband and I are learning too."
A year ago as sophomores, the Serra boys won 6A doubles for coach Traci Rhodes. It was an important experience, both boys said, that helped them with serves, volleys and appreciating team play in an otherwise individualistic sport. Playing each other was a different arrangement.
"It's a weird feeling," Bruno Serra said. "We just tried to keep away that whole brother thing. It was like, 'Let's just play our game and do our best.' It's always hard to do that, but I think I did well at it."
Winning as a team made Bruno Serra happiest.
"I feel happy, I feel relieved," he said. "I really wanted to grab this title, and the one as a team as well. Back-to-back is so great for West. The team title is more important than the individual title because everyone put a lot of work and time into getting it."
Rafa Serra needed three sets in the semifinals to beat top-seeded junior Nam Pham of Shawnee Mission Northwest, who came in with a 27-0 record. Bruno Serra's straight-set semifinal win against freshman Dan Harkin of Manhattan wasn't as grueling on the first truly hot day of the tennis season.
"They were both underdogs today," Rhodes said. "I love that they're totally professional on the court, but they're great teammates and brothers, too."
Rhodes said she realized BV West would repeat as team champs when Blue Valley Northwest's top-seeded doubles team — senior Alex Downing and freshman Brent Fallon — knocked off freshmen Jackson Fenton and Blake Eason of Shawnee Mission East 7-5, 6-2. BV West edged SM East 47-45 on total points, and BV Northwest took third with 26.
Downing, who was a member of a BVNW’s state champion team two years ago, said he was pleased to end his high-school career as a doubles champion.
"This has been the goal for the last four years," Downing said. "The ultimate goal. And I'm happy I got to finish it out with a great group of guys."
Fallon said he’s drained physically after a long two-day tournament.
“So tired,” he said. “But it’s all worth it.”
BV Northwest coach Ted Fabiano praised Downing's leadership and his collective resolve with Fallon, who fell behind 4-0 in the quarterfinals before rebounding. SM East's Fenton and Eason also provided resistance in the final after a quick start for BVNW.
"I'm especially proud of them because I feel like they played their best tennis today, and that's not always easy to do at the end of a year when you've really been grinding," Fabiano said. "I'm thrilled for Alex — I thought that he's been one of the best doubles players we've had over all these years. This is how we wanted it to end."