By Jake Lourim
Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute
Sweat drenched brothers Connor and Michael Woolf’s faces and clothes. Two more experienced men stood on the other side of the tennis court.
The brothers fought on.
Easy volleys went into the net. The game dragged in record temperatures, with almost every game being pushed to deuce.
Still, the brothers fought on.
They won the Evanston Men’s Doubles Open Wednesday, 6-4, 6-3, in their first year in the competition.
Wednesday’s high of 102, tying the Evanston Fourth of July record set in 1911, came in the middle of their match at Ackerman Park.
“Didn’t really think about it,” said Michael, who plays No. 2 doubles as a rising sophomore at Division III Coe (Iowa) College. “We just thought about finishing the match.” Connor, a senior, plays No. 1 doubles at Evanston High School.
The tournament has been going on “forever,” according to one spectator. The brothers turned to their chemistry and 33 combined years of tennis to try to overcome the lack of experience in the tournament.
They kept running to reach balls all over the court. After nearly each point they won, they high-fived, usually in silence. It was after the points they lost that they started to have some problems.
“We have a love-hate relationship,” Michael said.
At times, they would miss shots—volleys, serves—but they always found a way to come back. Sometimes, they even hit each other to get back their intensity.
“We can boost each other up if we need to,” Connor said, adding that they find a way to work through it when it really counts.
The two competitive tennis players couldn’t wait to get back to playing for fun.
That’s why Connor couldn’t sleep Tuesday night. He was so excited for the final on the Fourth of July.
“If we don’t have fun,” Michael added, “neither of us plays very well.”
The brothers said they just made sure the other was smiling. When they were, they found a way to pull out two almost dead-even sets.
Finally, the end was near. The Woolf brothers were up 6-4, 5-3 with match point. They were within seconds of the title. When the final shot hit the ground, they high-fived silently, shook hands with their opponents, shook hands with the umpire, and walked off.
As they plopped down in the shade after the match, Michael pulled out an ice pack and put it on the back of Connor’s neck.
Their love-hate relationship? After they won the championship, it was mostly love.
Jake Lourim is a high school student from the Detroit area participating in this summer's Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute.