Some twins might claim to share telepathy, though it’s difficult to prove that a bond that strong exists. Tennis-playing twins Annika and Kristina Penickova don’t claim to have the ability to read each other’s minds, but they certainly understand one another on the court.
Annika, a righty, and Kristina, a lefty, are not only sisters, but also teammates. They often play as a doubles team and said being twins – and having different dominant arms – works to their advantage by letting them cover the court more efficiently.
For four years, the 8-years-olds have trained one to three hours a day at Los Altos Golf & Country Club with their father, Tomas Penicka, the club’s director of tennis. The girls run drills and engage in conditioning exercises.
Two out of every three weekends, the girls compete at tournaments in places as far as Moraga, Manteca and Fresno. They play singles as well as doubles.
Annika said one of her favorite parts of playing doubles is her sister “not getting mad at me.”
They have won several tournament titles as a doubles pair, including the 12-and-under girls categories at the Berkeley Challenger and the Lafayette Challenger, along with the 12-and-under girls tournament at St. Mary’s College.
“Sometimes we win a lot,” Kristina said.
Kristina and Annika are ranked 59th and 74th, respectively, in the girls 12-and-under division of USTA Northern California, both with several tournament titles under their belts. They were also part of the Bay Club Courtside’s 12-and-under team, which won the U.S. Tennis Association sectional team championship.
The dynamic duo has even shared a court with professional tennis players. Last year, they served as ball kids at the Bank of the West Classic women’s tennis tournament.
Despite the typically packed schedule of competitive tennis, the two girls said they live a relatively relaxed lifestyle. They spend much of their free time baking, cycling, playing and completing home-school assignments. They don’t seem to stress about their tennis rankings.
“It’s not that much about winning,” said their mom, Olga Penickova, who oversees their home schooling and, like Tomas, once played professional tennis in the Czech Republic. “We give them the base and the techniques, then we’ll see whether they want to do it or not.”
Although initially hesitant, Annika and Kristina said they have grown to love their home-school system, which consists of two separate parts. The first is English school, taught by their parents, and the second is Czech school, taught over Skype by their grandmother in the Czech Republic. The one-hour Czech classes take place approximately three days a week, with nearly 45 minutes of homework. Kristina, in particular, enjoys reading Czech books.
“We all enjoy (home schooling) – it is our lifestyle,” Tomas said, adding that his “(work) hours are crazy, too.”
As for their future in the sport, the twins have clear goals.
“Play some good tennis,” Kristina said.
Annika added, “I want to be first.”