Ben and Julian Slive are relative newcomers to the pickleball scene, having played seriously only since last May, but they have made quite the mark.
Their recent display at the sixth annual Franklin Delray Beach Pickleball Classic, which attracted over 700 contenders, showed exactly how far they’d come.
Delray Beach Tennis Center
This tournament, held at the Delray Beach Tennis Center on Atlantic Avenue, was sponsored in the main by Franklin Sports with support from the Delray Beach Pickleball Club. The huge event used 28 courts, including a center stadium hosting the medal matches.
Norm Dickman, President of the Delray Beach Pickleball Club, was thrilled with how the tournament went: “We are delighted to have so many players who joined us this year for the Pickleball Classic.
“The growth of pickleball has led to a huge number of competing events, but Delray’s popularity as a player’s tournament continues to attract top talent from all over the country and Canada.
Leveraging Each Other’s Strengths
He added, “The proceeds will enable us to increase our support of our numerous charity partners, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation Southern Florida, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the Achievement Center for Children and Families.”
Among the participants were 14-year-old twins from Boca Raton, Ben and Julian Slive, who competed together in the 4.0 doubles division. They credit their success to leveraging each other’s strengths — Julian’s finesse with dinks and Ben’s forceful volleys.
In the 10-49 age group with a 4.0 skill level, Ben clinched gold, while Julian secured bronze in the same category. Together, they claimed a silver in the Men’s doubles in the 10-49 4.0 skill level.
“Wow, This Is Pretty Fun”
Ben and Julian, eighth-grade competitive tennis players at AD Henderson representing FAU High, mentioned their initial informal encounters with pickleball.
Ben recalled their beginnings: “We had played once or twice at a friend’s house and as a school unit in our physical education class, but had never gotten much engaged in it or involved in it until (last year).
“I started playing the first two times at my friends out, and I thought, ‘Wow, this is pretty fun,’ but I really didn’t know how many people or how I was going to play.”
Their tennis coach at FAU High, Carlos Santiago, who also plays pickleball, encouraged them to keep at it, and shortly after, they entered their inaugural tournament.
Ben continued, “We had very limited experience to the game, but it was a great way to meet new people, and I think that’s when we started playing pickleball and just loved the game.
“We came from a tennis background, so I think we just wanted to hit the ball hard. We didn’t really know strategy at all. It was more relaxed. We didn’t know anyone, and we didn’t know the game.
“It was the first time actually picking up our own pickleball paddle. So, we were running around trying to find a fun place to play at. We didn’t really think we’d get involved as we are now.”
“We Had No Strategy At All”
Initially grappling with the rules and lacking a strategic edge, the twins gradually acclimatized. “Once we got the hang of the rules, it was a little easier,” he said. “Once we started playing better players, we had no strategy at all,” Ben admitted.
Reflecting on their victory in Delray, Ben shared, “Winning in Delray was great. I had to tell myself I was one of the better players in the tournament to gain some confidence, and I just told myself that I had trained really hard the past few months, and I just had to go out and execute.”
In the finals, Ben triumphed over 18-year-old FAU High senior Nolan Dang, a familiar opponent. Accustomed to facing older adversaries, Ben relied on his tennis expertise to outmaneuver them.
Handling The Pressure
Teaming up with his brother, they finished as runners-up, narrowly missing the championship, conceding to Michael Garcia and Miguel Pimentel from West Palm Beach.
Ben reflected, “I think we could have won the championship. I think the stress got to us a tiny bit, especially because we were on a big court.”
For Julian and Ben, their journey into pickleball began as a fun summer activity two years ago, evolving into something some serious pursuit last summer.
On Track To Go Pro
They now envision a path toward professional pickleball.
Julian, contemplating the transition, remarked, “I think it is pretty cool that we are on track to go professional. There are a lot of people who play tennis that are turning to pickleball.
In my opinion, in three years, it will only be tennis players playing pickleball because of the stroke. Tennis is also so much harder a sport to turn pro in because of the amount of tennis players.
“I like to dink and drop it a little more,” he said. “I guess I am the more patient one. [Ben] likes to speed it up a little and go for the kill, that’s why I think we are such great partners. He also has very quick hands.”
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