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Secret of My Success: Cassidy and Jessie Cruz

Memo to Venus and Serena Williams: There's a new sister act in town—Cassidy and Jessie Cruz take center court ... and stage.

Cassidy and Jessie Cruz qualify as bona fide phenoms. The sisters—Cassidy, 16, and Jessie, 14—are the reigning New York State doubles champions, Journal News/Westchester/Putnam co-tennis players of the year and members of the New Rochelle High School tennis team.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the sport is in their DNA: Mom Carolyn is the director of the tennis program at Rye Racquet Club, and she and their dad Eric are former college and national tennis players. As such, there is little question about what sport 10-year-old brother James will play.

Cassidy and Jessie, both New Rochelle natives, have been playing tennis since they’ve been 3 and 4 years old respectively and show no signs of slowing down.

While Venus and Serena Williams remain the preeminent sister siblings in the tennis world today, the Cruz sisters seem poised to step onto a center court all their own.

Taking time out of their busy schedule to answer a few questions posed by Patch, the sisters obliged with their replies:

Patch: What other hobbies or sports are you involved in?
Cassidy
: Lacrosse [New Rochelle HS varsity], art (PAVE [Performing and Visual Arts Education Program]), soccer, skiing and snowboarding.
Jessie: Soccer on the New Rochelle Power Division 1 Travel Team.   

Do you consider tennis a hobby?
Cassidy
: Yes.
Jessie: No.

What are your favorite subjects in school?
Cassidy:
Art.
Jessie: Math and Chinese.

Is there any rivalry between the two of you in any aspect of your lives?
Cassidy
: Everything.
Jessie: No.

Do the two of you ever play against one another? If yes, what was that like?
Cassidy:
Yes, in the past. It was difficult to play against a younger sibling because all the pressure is on me to win.
Jessie: Yes, we have several years ago. It was not good because it's just awkward to compete against your own sister. Whatever the outcome, it puts a lot of strain on our relationship. We won't play against each other anymore.

What is your biggest strength in the game?
Cassidy:
My strength is my forehand.
Jessie: My backhand.

What is your biggest weakness in the game?
Cassidy:
My serve.
Jessie: My overhead.

How would you describe your court strategy (run and gun, aggressive, cut-throat, deadly, polite, etc.)?
Cassidy:
I look non-chalant when I'm playing. I know it looks like I'm not trying sometimes, but I try my best and am still competitive. I would say I have a consistent game, but I have recently been adding more aggressive shots
Jessie: I'm pretty intense when I play matches because I hate to lose. My style is usually on the more aggressive side, but I can play consistently and run every ball down.

Do you have any game rituals that you perform before a match? If yes, what are they? Any lucky charms you keep with you?
Cassidy:
I have no rituals. My lucky charm is a hair scrunchy I keep on my racquet.
Jessie: As a ritual, I jump rope, but there is no lucky charm.

What advice would you give to parents who have children who excel in a sport the way you girls have?
Cassidy:
The advice I would give to parents is this: It's important to balance academics, sports and social activities. Don't be too intense. Be nice to your children after matches/games whether they win or lose. Don't force your children to play something they are not enjoying.
Jessie: My advice to parents would be to make sure they have a balanced schedule. Don't make them play too much of any one sport so that it's not fun anymore. Academics should be the main focus. You should make sure there is time in the schedule for hanging out with friends. Playing two sports is a lot of fun so you don't become tired of one; it helps relieve frustration. Don't yell at your kids when they lose.

Assuming playing tennis is fun, what else do you like to do for fun?
Cassidy:
I like lacrosse, art, skiing/snowboarding and hanging out with friends. I also enjoy going into New York City and shopping.
Jessie: I like soccer, shopping, painting my nails, baking and snowboarding.

Assuming that you both like music, what kind of music do you like? Favorite music artist?
Cassidy:
I like pop music. I don’t have a favorite artist.
Jessie: I listen to radio stations Z100 and 92.3 and like Kesha.

Beliebers? (Justin Bieber fans)
Cassidy: No!
Jessie: No!

Who would you like to see win the gold in tennis during the 2012 Summer Olympics?
Cassidy:
Federer and Victoria Azarenka.
Jessie: Federer and Maria Sharapova.

What would you like for the future to hold for you in the world of tennis?
Cassidy:
I would like to play college tennis.
Jessie: I would like to make it to the Easter Bowl this spring. And eventually play college tennis.

College plans after high school or do you think you would rather turn pro?
Cassidy:
No, not pro.
Jessie: College, not pro.

What is the secret of your success?
Cassidy:
Training hard including clinics, private lessons and tournament competition. During competition, keeping a steady head and playing smart…using my strengths and picking apart my opponent’s weakness. During the New York State tournament, my high school coach (Mike Sgobbo) provided very valuable advice and helped us through some of the tighter matches.
Jessie: To always try my best. To balance my life as I mentioned before, so I don’t get burned out playing tennis. 

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