If you detect a certain Grittiness in the play of Luke and Murphy Jensen, the newly crowned French Open doubles champions, there is a reason. They were raised to be football champions. Luke, 27, was going to be an All-America quarterback at Notre Dame. Murphy, 24, was going to lead Michigan to the Rose Bowl. It would have been great, if tennis hadn't ruined everything.
For several years Patricia and Howard Jensen's plan for their sons' futures went along just fine. Under the tutelage of Howard, a former guard for the New York Giants and a football and tennis coach at Ludington (Mich.) High, the boys excelled in the national Punt, Pass and Kick competitions. Through noncontact sports like tennis they developed strength and coordination while waiting to mature enough physically to play organized football. At age 10, Luke was so sure of his destiny that he called Notre Dame coach Dan Devine after seeing the Irish lose a game on TV. "Don't worry," he told Devine, "I'll be coming soon."
But when he was 14, Luke's tennis suddenly took off. By 18, he was the top-ranked junior player in the country and had never played a game of organized football. He had his pick of collegiate tennis programs but chose USC. Why? "On my visit," he says, "O.J. Simpson and Marcus Allen shook my hand and showed me their Heisman Trophies."
Football's influence didn't stop there. "I approach tennis like Ronnie Lott approaches football," says Luke. "You always know I'm out there waiting for you." Murphy's enthusiasm for football is a little less pronounced—he learned that punters and kickers can make a lot of money without too much physical sacrifice—and his manner more subdued than his brother's, but his tennis talent may be as formidable. With 10 national age-group doubles titles under his belt, Murphy followed his brother to USC. He languished there for two years before transferring lo Georgia in 1990. He played one year for the Bulldogs, earning All-America honors in doubles, before joining the pro circuit in '91. This January he hooked up with Luke, who had turned pro in 1987.
June 20, 1993
What the Jensens have accomplished together in the last six months eclipses any result either has had separately. After a second-round loss at the Australian Open, they reached the semis of the Italian Open three weeks before winning the French. "We hadn't really played together since I left for college." says Luke. "Imagine if we had stayed together that whole time." The brothers also both play guitar for the rock group We've Never Heard of You, Either. Besides the Jensens, the group has Jim (Sticks) Courier on drums, Pat McEnroe on lead vocals and his brother, John, "doing whatever he wants," says Murphy.
While most of their colleagues stayed in Europe after the French Open to practice on grass in preparation for Wimbledon, the Jensens returned to Ludington to rest and to bomb around on Luke's Harley-Davidson. They consider their network of family and friends back home an important part of their success. In fact, their ultimate tennis goal is an all-Jensen mixed-doubles final in a Grand Slam event.
The Jensens' twin sisters, Rachel and Rebecca, are also excellent players. Rachel is in her second year on the women's tour (she's ranked 287), and Rebecca is an All-America at Kansas. Luke and Murphy already know how the four of them will pair up if such a final ever takes place. On the way to the hospital to see their newborn sisters 20 years ago, the brothers picked their doubles partners. Luke chose Rebecca, and Murphy took Rachel. Always planning.