It’s like having the best of two worlds for Ryan and Connor Fu of Andover.
While most star athletes cite great coaching or tremendous parental support for their success in sports, the Fu brothers benefit from having them both wrapped into one.
Ryan, 13, is the No. 1-ranked 14-and-under tennis player in New England and 12-year-old Connor is No. 1 in 12-and-under. Both are also ranked in the top 60 players nationally and they’re climbing fast.
And both are coached by their talented mother, Lisa Albano-Fu, a teaching pro at Cedardale who has — to say the least — an impressive resume.
A native of Peabody, Albano was a high school All-American at Pingree who went to the University of California at Berkeley where she enjoyed an outstanding career.
At Berkeley, Albano was a four-time All-American and, in 1991, was the NCAA singles runner-up. She was named Cal’s Woman Tennis Player of the Decade and after graduation played on the professional tour for two years.
Now, Albano’s sons are enjoying a comparable rise in tennis and she is certainly one of the reasons why.
Although Ryan didn’t start playing competitively until he was 8, both he and Connor began playing when they were about 4 years old.
It was only natural since they often had to accompany their mother when she gave lessons, whether in California, Danvers or — for the last seven years — at Cedardale.
After several years of being around the courts, and once the brothers showed a love of the sport, their mother began giving them lessons. She has been their one and only coach.
It is, says Ryan, a big advantage.
“With our mom coaching us, we get to practice more and I like not having to depend on other people,” he said. “It’s better having her as our coach. She can be tougher on me and (yet) I can tell her things easier.”
Despite having the same coach, however, Ryan and Connor have different styles. Ryan has terrific ground strokes and is good at covering the court while Connor is more aggressive and likes to attack the net more.
And they also have different temperaments. Ryan is a bit more competitive and serious about tennis while Connor just seems to enjoy playing.
“I really hate to lose,” said Ryan. “In my last big tournament, at sectionals, I lost in doubles and I was pretty mad about it. I think that helped drive me to win the singles (title).”
Already, Ryan is looking ahead five years, aiming to play Division 1 tennis in college, like his mother. Connor is less concerned about the distant future.
Although their No. 1 passion is clearly tennis, both Ryan and Connor are avid hockey players and Connor plays for the highly regarded Top Gun traveling team.
“I like hockey a lot, but I basically just play in the winter, and tennis is year-round for both of us,” said Ryan. “Tennis is definitely my main thing.”
During the summer, tennis is definitely No. 1 for the Fu brothers. They played in two separate national tournaments in West Hartford, Conn., over the weekend and they’ll be playing at different nationals coming up, with Ryan heading to Kalamazoo, Mich., and Connor playing in Philadelphia.
“If I do well in Michigan, I’ll probably be ranked about 30th (nationally) by the end of the summer,” said Ryan.
Later, there is also a huge tournament to be tackled for Ryan in San Antonio.
“If he continues to progress, it’s certainly within Ryan’s grasp to be a good Division 1 (college) player,” said Albano-Fu. “He seems to want it. Connor could be the same way, although he’s not as serious about tennis yet. He just likes to play.”
When not on the court or on the ice, the Fu brothers go to the Wood Hill Middle School in Andover, with Ryan slated for the eighth grade and Connor for the seventh grade in the fall. Unless something changes, both will be headed to Andover High, which will certainly be welcome news for Warriors’ coach Mike Wartman.
Beneficial background The Fu brothers from Andover, Ryan and Connor, can't go wrong with their coach, Lisa Albano-Fu, who is also their mother. She has an impressive resume. Star player and New England champion at Pingree School Four-time All-American at University of California at Berkeley NCAA singles runner-up as a junior Named Cal's Woman Tennis Player of the Decade Named to UCal Berkeley Hall of Fame in 2000 Played on professional tour for two years Ranked No. 1 player in Northern California in 1997, No. 1 in New England in 1998