The Alex household of Arden Hill is a major source of talent for the vibrant Mounds View tennis program. The Alex brothers are not only plentiful, they also come to the Mustangs finely-trained -- by their mom.
Petro Alex, 18, a senior, plays No. 2 singles, after two years at No. 1, for the Mustangs, who placed third in the state last season and are ranked No. 2 this year. Petro has played in five state team tournaments and has qualified in singles the last two years
Christo, 15, a freshman, usually plays No. 1 doubles and is a strong singles player when need. He has played in state team tournaments in 8th and 9th grade and qualified in doubles last year. Emmanuel, 13, a seventh-grader, plays No. 4 singles. He’s ranked No. 19 nationally for his age group.
“All credit to our mother,” Petro said. “She taught us a lot. She is still a really good player.”
Kathy Alex was a four-time All-American at UCLA who led the Bruins to the NCAA team title in 1981 and was an NCAA runner-up in doubles in 1982. Her professional career included playing doubles in the US Open main draw four times and Wimbledon once. Alex and partner Terry Holladay took Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver to a third set at the 1983 US Open.
The boys’ mom has coached tennis players for decades around the U.S. and overseas. Her husband Christopher is from Greece, where they started their family, which grew to six boys and three girls. Kathy is very active in USTA and currently coaches at InnerCity Tennis in Minneapolis. She coached the Mahtomedi girls for one season, 2016, in which they won the state championship.
“She has coached all of the boys and had a great impact in their tennis upbringing,” Mustang coach Scott Sundstrom said. “Petro even has a one-handed backhand like his mother! She coaches at North Oaks Rec Center during the summer and has coached many Mounds View players, and she, like her sons, have all contributed to the success of the MV program.”
Two older Alex brothers also graced Mustang lineups for several seasons. Abraham played 1-doubles on the 2015 state champion team and was a state individual qualifier. Luke, who played doubles and 3-singles on the third-place team in 2017.
“I’ve never played on a team that didn’t have at least one of my brothers,” said Petro. This year marks the second time there’s been three Alex’s on a team. Luke, Petro and Christo were in the lineup for the 2017 third-place team.
“The Alex brothers have shown strong leadership and are truly team-centered players,” Sundstrom said.
Mounds View has a 6-1 record including recent wins over No. 8 Rochester Century, 4-3, and No. 10 East Ridge 7-0. Their lone loss came against No. 1 Edina, 4-3, in their season opener. The Mustangs might get another shot at Edina on Saturday at the power-packed Edina Invitational.
Mustang freshman Bjorn Swenson is ranked No. 4 in the state. Swenson took over the No. 1 slot for the Mustangs this season, although Petro says he’ll try regain it. Both have gone to state in singles the past two years.
It might take a state team championship this year to top, or match, Petro’s single greatest thrill so far.
That was in eighth grade when he played No. 4 singles and the state championship match came down to his duel against Elk River senior Zeke Delain at the University of Minnesota. With everyone crowded around their court, Petro prevailed 6-3, 6-3, giving the Mustangs a 4-3 win.
“That has always been my greatest moment in tennis and I think about it a lot,” he said. Asked about the pressure, he said, “I really enjoyed being in the spotlight. You don’t usually get that in tennis! My coach estimated there were about 350 people watching.”
Christo is the only Alex who has another sport; he played safety on the Mustang football team last fall and plans to continue. Luke was also a football player, starting for the Mustangs at cornerback. Petro has played soccer, and Emmanuel has played basketball, but both concentrate on tennis now.
Petro dueled his older brothers when he was starting out, and now has Emmanuel, five years younger, for a worthy sparring partner. They frequently take an open court at InnerCity Tennis and blast away at each other.
When they met in the finals of a recent USTA tournament, Petro won 6-1, 6-1. “But everyone thought it was pretty cool for a 13-year-old to reach the finals against 18-year-olds,” he said. It’s pretty cool for the Mustangs to have Alex brothers in the lineups for several more years.