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Tennis aces run in this family - Xaverian star follows brother

There’s a saying that goes, “Like father like son.”

But in the Kessler family, the younger brother is following in the footsteps of his older brother.

Keith Kessler starred on the tennis team at Xaverian High School and played in USTA sanctioned tournaments as well as in college. He is now a teaching pro at the Bridgeview Racquet Club here in Brooklyn. Keith is a 2003 graduate of Xaverian High.

Keith’s younger brother Jeff is playing at the first singles position at the same Xaverian High School, is the best tennis player in the Catholic High Schools Athletic Association (CHSAA), and is among the top five netters in the city, which includes the public schools.

“Jeff has been consistently among the top five in the city since he’s entered the school,” Coach Alex Alfredo said. “He’s performed at a high level and is ranked 15th in the East in the Boys 18 Division.”

After four league matches, Kessler is undefeated but his team on a whole is 1-3 in league competition after losing 4-1 to St. Francis Prep of Queens on April 25.

In the meet, Kessler defeated Kevin Holze of St. Francis Prep for the second time in this interscholastic dual match season. The score was 6-2, 6-2. Earlier in the year they previously met at nearby McKinley Park, the home court for Xaverian. The score read 6-1, 6-0.

“Because he is tall, everything he hits is low, hard and fast,” Holze said about Kessler. “He has a gigantic serve, moves well and has a drop volley. He has just about everything a coach would want.”

Last year, the Clippers finished third in the CHSAA and Kessler went undefeated in dual match singles competition.

In the Mayor’s Cup competition last year, he suffered an injury at the semi-finals and lost the match to the eventual champion Curtis Roby.

Now Kessler is completely recovered.

“He has confidence in his play every time he steps onto to court,” Acevedo said.

Jeff played second singles as a freshman, moved up to first singles as a sophomore, junior and senior. As of press time, in his entire varsity career, he’s only lost three regular season matches.

“My best part of my game is my serve and forehand,” said Kessler, who trains at the Bridgeview Racquet Club in Bensonhurst. ”However, I have to work more on my conditioning.”

The student athlete has accepted a scholarship to St. Joseph’s of Pennsylvania, where he will get an education, work on his game, play tennis in the fall as in the spring, and be part of its tennis team. His goal all along was to go to a Division I college and he’s there.

For now, he’s looking to win the singles title in the Mayor’s Cup at the USTA National Tennis Center in Queens in June.

“There’s a lot of good kids there,” he said.

While Kessler sees action at the top spot, John Kantor plays at the second position, one place ahead of Joe Giamboi. The two doubles teams in high school game are Joe Acevedo and Mike Boyarsky and twins Joe and Neil Khoury.

The latter two are freshmen and two-sport athletes on a young squad, for they are in the school’s track and field athletic program, cross country in the fall and indoor track in the winter. At times they would work out and run during the spring when there aren’t any tennis conflicts.

“It’s simple to go from one sport to the other,” said Joe.

Added Neil: “In tennis, we need a lot of footwork. Being fast helps us on the court.”

While Xaverian has one standout player, the rest are mostly freshmen and sophomores, which explains the under .500 record.

“A lot of them are inexperienced,” Alfredo went on. “I’m still encouraged as we’ll get better [as the season] progresses.”

Alfredo is not disappointed about the team’s efforts this season even though they aren’t contending for the top spot.

“It changes every year as it’s the nature of sports in high school,” Alfredo said.

The goal of the team is to improve as the season goes on.

“Hopefully, for next year we’ll challenge for first place,” noted Alfredo, who has been coaching tennis for ten years, including five at Xaverian.

Added Kessler: “I have to keep my teammates focused on our goals. I have to lead from the top and set a good example for the rest of the team.”

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