WGH brothers hit right chord on the court

Special to Tribune Chronicle Warren G. Harding’s Alex Payiavlas, left, and brother Anthony pose for a picture. The two play in the Division I district tournament next week.

Alex Payiavlas took the stage in front of an audience at Warren G. Harding High School. He held his tenor saxophone in front and played a jazz solo.

His other instrument of choice is a tennis racket, strung to his specifications, grip put on the handle for comfort on every swing.

It’s like playing scales, letting out excess spit and wetting a wooden reed before trying to play a piece on a saxophone.

It takes practice. The WGH senior, who plays in the school’s jazz and symphonic bands, knows this all too well.

“It builds up your mental strength,” Payiavlas said. “Staying focused is always that 80 percent mental and emotion on the court. The 20 percent is skill. Being alone out there mirrors being out there with jazz solo. All those nerves, and you have to feel at home in your domain as soon as you belt out that first lick. It’s like swinging that forehand down that line.

“It’s all muscle memory and very repetitive. As soon as you get it down, you practice it over and over and over again. Pretty soon it comes out the horn pretty naturally, just like a tennis swing.”

He and his freshman brother, Anthony, have got in the swing of things as the fourth-seeded doubles team at the Division I Solon boys sectional tennis tournament advanced to next week’s D-I Akron District.

For the most part of this past season, the two have played as the Raiders’ top-two singles players. It isn’t the first time the two have played as a team.

WGH coach Craig Charnas saw the good checks and balances the two had to be one of the best teams to come out of this Solon Sectional.

“Because they both play at such a high level and they have played some doubles together, I think the encouragement to keep each other focused might benefit them,” Charnas said. “If one is losing focus, the other one is there to keep them in check.”

Alex said the two have great chemistry on the court. The ebb and flow of the duo makes them a tough out for any competition.

“When Anthony and I get on the court, it’s a lot smoother,” Alex said. “It feels like we’re meant to be partners.”

The two have played the game since young children, about 4 years old.

Alex has the big first serve, which helps dictate points from the start. Anthony is strong at the net with good volleys, football and hand-eye coordination.

“I think we’re meant to be,” Anthony said.

He sings in the school choir like most of his family did while they were in school. Alex said Anthony is introverted, but when his favorite song is on, he doesn’t mind belting out a tune.

Anthony sings Blame by Jesse Rutherford.

The confidence to sing in front of others isn’t as strong as his hard-hitting play on the tennis court. Anthony has found a way to make one complement the other.

“Throughout all the years I’ve experienced crowds, clapping, people going against me,” Anthony said. “For choir, I really haven’t had that experience. I really trust my tennis game than my actual voice.”

Together on the court, the Payiavlas brothers hit the right chord.